Browse Exhibits (7 total)

Alcoholism in Antiquity


Alcohol consumption has been a part of human life since the ancient times. Alcohol has been traced back to the Stone Age when people found beer containers that show humans have been fermenting alcohol since then. Egyptions were the first to show pictographs of wine and beer around 4000 BCE. They believed that the drink was a nessessity of life. Wine reacher the Hellenic peninsula by 2000 BCE and by 1700 BCE, it was common in Greece. Wine was used as an exchange, offered to gods, and used as mediacation. Greek culture and identity involved wine drinking and anyone who abstained from it were considered lathargic and unpleseant.

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Aphrodisiacs and Other Drugs

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In anitquity, aphrodisiacs and other drugs have many uses. Drugs have been used for medicinal, pharamaceutical, and magical purposes in both literature and reality. Aphrodisiacs were mainly used for arousing sexual desires in the form of love magic and herbs.

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Roman Cauponae


This exhibit explores how the art and text found on the walls of Roman taverns, especially those known as cauponae, convey the attitudes and behaviors of their patrons. Cauponae served as both taverns and inns, offering hot meals and wine as well as beds for the night. They were frequented by slaves, seamen and others of low social status, whose earthy and often vulgar sense of humor is conveyed in the graffiti they left behind. Common pastimes of these tavern-goers, such as eating, gambling, and lovemaking, also come to life on the walls of the cauponae.

The primary focus of this exhibit is the city of Pompeii, which was famously buried during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. As a result, the cauponae of Pompeii are particularly well-preserved, and their walls supply a wealth of evidence for how the common people lived in the early Roman Empire.

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Sacrificial Food

This exhibit covers foods in the Greek Archaic period (800 BC – 480 BC) that were made as sacrifices to the gods. It examines practices and stories connected to preparation and consumption of foods with religious and sacrifical significance. It employs physical objects and primary literary sources in order to access a deeper understanding of which foods were eaten in a religious context and why.

We look, first, at the concept of sacrifice: its etiology as well as the basic choices of food for sacrifice. We examine how the Greeks explained why they did what they did and what that tells us about the origins of these practices. We next look at the most commonly sacrificed food, meat. From this comes an explanation of how sacrifice was performed, where, and under what conditions, be they casual or ceremonial. Lastly, we look at liquid sacrifices--libations. This finally gives us a greater understanding of the connection sacrfiice could establish between people and gods. These items draw connections between other areas of food study and the religious experiences, ideas, and narratives that existed in the Greek world.  


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Spices Of The Ancient Roman World


This exhibit explores spices of the Roman Empire: their origins, whether imported from exotic places, or the seasonings they would have had available in their own gardens, and the evidence for the use of these in their cooking. We drew from ancient sources as much as possible, especially Pliny’s Natural History and the ancient recipes and critiques of Apicius, as authorities on how spices traveled from place to place, their various properties, and how people in ancient Rome would have used them in cooking. We also wanted to incorporate information compiled by the Getty Museum for their experimental recreation of a Roman herb garden, and selected a few common herbs the Romans grew themselves that are still widely used in cooking today.


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Symposium Entertainment

The symposium was the ultimate expression of male Greek culture in ancient times. It was almost universal no matter the city-state in which it was held, and was a space in which both guests and host could strengthen personal and political bonds.

More than that, however, the symposium can be a way to show that ancient people were a lot like us today: they had parties, danced, drank, laughed at bad humor, and, most importantly, had fun!

The images below are all from one kylix (shallow, wide-brimmed drinking cup) which depicts what we understand to be an average symposium. Links are placed on the image at points where we have gathered evidence and explained what aspects of the symposium they depict. Browse and learn at your own pace, and have enjoy finding out how weird (and fun) symposia could be for the men involved!  

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Vegetarianism in Antiquity

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Vegetarianism in antiquity, though not necessarily popular, shaped critical parts of culture and philosophy.  By exploring the philosophies of Pythagoras, a pioneer of vegetarianism in his time, we can see the foundation of ancient vegetarianism.  His followers and their philosophies, however, continued to amend the doctrines of Pythagoras and morph vegetarianism into the concept it is today.  This exhibit will explore Pythagoras's ideas and where they spread as well as how these ideas shifted and reflected cultural aspects in antiquity.  These aspects helped influence and change vegetarianism as we know it today.

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