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Etruscans’ daily life and ancient (curious) dining habits

Etruscans: foods and facts

Flavia Cori by Flavia Cori

The Etruscan civilisation existed from the VIII to the I century BC in what is now modern Tuscany. Greeks called them Tirreni o Pelasgi and the ancient Romans referred to them as Tusci or Etrusci. Despite the countless monuments and crafts they left, we haven’t uncovered enough elements to get to know the civilisation’s origin, religion and language. However, there are many collected finds that tell us about the Etruscans’ daily life and ancient (curious) dining habits:

The Eruscan banquet, Acque di Chianciano Terme Archeology Museum
The Eruscan banquet, Acque di Chianciano Terme Archeology Museum

The Etruscans were capable agriculturists. They cultivated chickpeas, barley, millet, sesame and wheat, with which they prepared flour and bread. They ate few meats: common meals consisted of dense soups with grains and legumes enriched with water or milk. With spelt flour they prepared a very special polenta.

In Etruria, aristocratic banquets were incredibly sumptuous. The Etruscans set the table twice a day and the most sumptuous banquets involved men and women of high social standing reclined on couches, attended to by servants (who were sometimes nude). The rooms where these celebrations were organized were graced with fine carpets in various colors and tables laden with the finest pottery.

Wine was considered a luxury and there were precise rules for drinking wine: it was always mixed with water (three-quarters of water and one of wine).  It was always filtered and cooled by servants with snow or ice before being consumed. It might be sweetened with honey or flavored with rose petals. 

During banquets guests enjoyed listening to harp and flute music. Etruscans used to organize games such as the Kottabos. This game consisted in launching a goblet containing the last drop of wine over bronze vessels. At the same time, players had to whisper the name of their loved one. If the target was achieved, love would be reciprocated.