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Foods and Culinary Utensils of the Ancients

The drinking goblets were of gold


guests began to arrive, they were first received in the vestibule by the attendants, who presented them with bouquets, placed garlands of lotus upon their heads and sometimes collars of lotus around their necks. To those who had come from a distance, they offered water and rinsed their feet. They then anointed their heads with sweet-smelling unguents and offered them wine and other beverages. During these proceedings the visitors were generally seated on the mats.

[Illustration: A black and white slave waiting upon a lady.]

After having received these attentions, the ladies and gentlemen intermingled and passed on to the main apartment, where the host and hostess received them and begged them to take their seats on the chairs and fauteuils which had been arranged for them. Here more refreshments were handed around and more flowers offered, while the guests, generally in couples, but sometimes in groups, conversed with one another. Music was next commonly introduced, sometimes accompanied by dancing. The performers in both acts were professionals and the dancing girls nearly if not quite naked. Sometimes at the same party there would be two bands, which we may suppose played alternately. Pet animals, such as dogs, gazelles and monkeys, were also often present (Ibid.).

On some occasions the music, dancing and light refreshments constituted the whole of the entertainment, but

more generally the proceedings described formed only the prelude to the more important part to follow. The stone pictures show us round tables loaded with a great variety of delicacies, such as joints of meat, geese, duck and waterfowl of different kinds, cakes, pastry, fruits, etc., interspersed amongst the guests.

These tables could be more accurately described as low stools supporting round trays. The stool or pillar was often in the shape of a man, usually a captive, who bore the slab on his head. The whole was made of stone or some hard wood. It was not often covered with linen, but was from time to time cleansed with a moist rag or cloth (Homer).

The dishes were probably handed round by the attendants and the guests helped themselves with their hands, as knives and forks were then unknown and the spoons that were manufactured do not seem to have been used for eating. The guests took as much as they could hold in their hands and, after eating, dipped them in water or wiped them in napkins which, it will be observed, the waiters carried. Beer and wine were supplied to quench the thirst.

As individual cups were not usually seen, the women were presented with the desired beverage in silver vases, and the men with it in hand goblets, which after being drained were returned to the attendant. Women and men both imbibed freely and drunkenness was a universal and fashionable habit of both sexes.

When the country was in the zenith of her power and magnificence, the drinking goblets were of gold, silver, glass, porcelain, alabaster and bronze. They varied also in form, some plain in appearance, others beautifully engraved and studded with precious stones. Heads of animals often adorned the handles, the eyes frequently composed of various gems. Many were without handles, while others were so shaped as to more properly come under the name of beakers and saucers. The beakers were frequently made of alabaster with a round base, which prevented their maintaining an upright position without additional support; and when empty they were turned downwards upon their rims. The saucers, which were of glazed pottery, were ornamented with lotus and fish carved or molded on their concave surface.

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