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The ancient Roman and Greek empires

Choose TWO of the three cultures we've looked at during the second half of the semester - ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, and ancient Rome - and compare and contrast the use of alcohol within those cultures. In your discussion consider how alcohol in those cultures related to religion, the economy, and social relationships.

There are many parallels between the ancient Roman and Greek empires that we can observe on a range from the characteristic party of the times to the political and religious agenda of the state, or City States. In both eras the production, and ingestion, of wine became widely popular; so much so that wine of high stature became the value of wealth or social ranking. The involvement of wine in the sociopolitical world is irrefutable as it is obvious on many levels of social interaction. For instance, though wine was a popularly distributed resource amongst all civilians, it is apparent through the observation of customary symposiums and conviviums that a higher quality wine was well revered and comfortably squandered amongst the wealthy. A great example of this is written in the Satyricon, where all of the dinner guests have been surely satiated with the host’s wine, the host himself can still but not help to ask about the wine from the evening’s other parties and compare it to the prestige of his own. On the note of the Symposium and the Convivium, both the Greek and Roman style of party arrangements included large volumes of wine, splendid foods, and even took place predominantly in a room with the likes of the Andron- three or four couches in a room, situated for leisure or pleasure. The main difference between these events was that in the Roman era, women and other unusual guests of a symposium were welcomed to conviviums and everyone could quite literally live together and be merry. As this allowed for a larger scope of the lower classes to take part in the leisures of the wealthy, there became more demand for more wine and demand for local places for the commonwealth to congregate, as opposed to the home of the highly host in the classic symposium. This led to the creation and wide propagation of thermopoliums, a place with the likes of a bar; where there was often another service provided with drink, ex: food, entertainment. Given that it was frowned upon for any woman, slave, or commonwealth to take part in the joys of wine in ancient Greece, it goes to say that Rome had a higher regard for the commonwealth, a stress on the significance of wine in the daily life, and tighter-knit society through the social ranks.

Go into depth about one major similarity and one major difference between mind-altering substances in east Asia in antiquity and the ancient Mediterranean. The aspects you choose are up to you, but they should be broad enough that you can write about them in a fair amount of detail, supporting your claim with specific evidence. Possible topics for your similarities and differences include, but aren't limited to, the following: economics, politics, religion, social relationships, psychoactive effects, type of substances, contexts of drug use, medicine, writings about drugs, rituals associated with drugs, origin of drug use, method of intake, whatever else you can think of.

Alcohol today can be seen as a dangerous drug just as easily as a delightful drink, but in the times of ancient Egypt, getting a couple barrels of beer meant a lot more than throwing a kegger. Around the same timeframe that some of the pyramids were built, there is archeological evidence of employee paystubs marked out in gallons, barrels, or amphorae of beer to be distributed out of the dolium. It would be silly to say that alcohol does not impose, in large, on our current society, but to say beer had a big impact on Egyptian culture is an understatement. As a matter of fact, it could be more accurate to state that Egyptian culture revolved around beer. Beer was the chief agriculture, production, and market capital of the era and consequently, it became the currency to boot.

Though mind-altering as it is, I would not consider alcohol to have had entheogenic effects such as the likes of Psilocybin mushrooms or Amanita fungi. Over the course readings and outside research, it is more characteristic of an entheogen to lead to a large shift in religious values of a culture and to leave evidence of fable folklore. In many cases, ancient lore invoked by psychotropic substances can reveal the subconscious nature of the specific culture. In much of Greek and Roman text, however, there is much more fancy than fantasy- showing there was no need for extravagant mind-exaltation- and if you were to compare the script above an ancient east Asian washroom with that in the Basilica, “a bunch of drunks” does well to describe the result of entheogenic influence in ancient Rome.

It is notable to distinguish between the broad effects of potions and powders as entheogens and the scale on which they lay bound. With alcohols, we have observed that the entheogenic effects are more clearly observed on a broad scale of people, as if to say how it is received by the civilians and how it effects day to day life. With serotonergic substances like hallucinogenic mushrooms, evidence is prone to prevail a unique set of infrastructures. For example, many shamans may have been found to experiment with similar substances, yet almost every shaman was inspired by revelations both unique and incomprehensibly shared amongst other shamans. It is clear that regardless of the strength or truth in the entheogen, these types of entheogens had much more influence on cultures that relate mental state to wellness and healing to the metaphysical.

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