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Brewer, Businessman, Barbarian: Cervesarii in the Western Roman Empire

Date: Friday, September 26th, 2014

Time: 5:30 pm

Duration: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Location: Room 150,
Center for the Sciences

Contact: Lisl Walsh,

Brewer, Businessman, and Barbarian: The Cervesarii in the Western Roman Empire

What was the ancient Roman relationship between food and social status? In the modern world, we connote the rich with "champagne wishes and caviar dreams," and antique societies had many similar pretensions surrounding food - particularly in the distinctions between those that drank wine and those that drank beer. Wine was the drink of the civilized man, according to elite Greeks and Romans, whereas the barbarians were the ones who drank beer. This distinction in drink remains even today: whereas the rich imbibe fine vintages from Napa and Bordeaux, the blue-collar worker drinks and indeed identifies with brews such as Miller Light and Budweiser. This perception is reinforced in commercial advertising - just watch a Packers game. The interplay between food and identity applies also to ancient Roman brewers (called "Cervesarii"). Come hear all about archaeological and textual evidence for beer-brewing culture and identity from the western Roman Empire.

Sarah E. Bond is an Assistant Professor of Classics at the University of Iowa. Her research addresses the physical and historical evidence for undesirable professions of the Roman world - mint workers, morticians, masseurs, and brewers. She also specializes in Late Antiquity, Roman and Medieval law, and Greek and Roman epigraphy.