"In Vino, Veritas": Ancient Persia's Law To Reconsider Rulings While Drunk
Humans throughout history have enacted some rather strange laws. For example, in ancient Rome, common citizens were forbidden from wearing purple. One might think that weird laws like these only existed during ancient times, but you know what they say about assumptions. Today in Alaska, for example, it is illegal to become intoxicated while in a bar. Yes, you read that right, and apparently, the law is actually enforced. However, the most poetic absurdity in lawmaking undoubtedly comes from the phrase "In vino veritas.”
In Vino Veritas in Film
If you're a fan of movies, you may already know what "In vino veritas" means. A few lesser-known films used it as a title. However, the most famous usage in cinema came from Tombstone. Doc Holliday, played by Val Kilmer, utters the slick-sounding phrase during a tense saloon scene. "I'm your huckleberry," indeed.
What in Vino Veritas Actually Means
Students of Latin will know that "in vino veritas" translates to "in wine, there is truth." What Latin scholars may not know is how that phrase related to lawmaking in ancient Persia. It was their custom that any ruling made while sober must be reconsidered while drunk, and any ruling made while drunk should be reconsidered while sober. If only one-night stands could hold up to the same test of judgment.
Which Drunk Came Up With This Rule?
Various ancient writings of Greek and Rome allude to this inebriated mix and match. However, the earliest writings are attributed to Erasmus, Athenaeus, and Pliny the Elder. Naturally, a philosophy-loving brewer named a highly sought-after draught after Pliny the Elder. After all, how can you let such a great name go to waste?
Everyone Loves a Good Turn of Phrase
Despite the ancient peoples imbibing enough to turn drinking into lawmaking, many other societies around the globe own their own version of "in vino veritas." The Danish said "From children and drunk people, you will hear the truth." The Germans, not to be left out of any drinking conversation, believed that "a drunken mouth proclaims the truth." Near the North Pole, the people of Iceland professed a similar belief: "Ale reveals the inner man." Not to be outdone, the eloquent English came up with three: "A drunk man's words are a sober man's thoughts," "What soberness conceals, drunkenness reveals," and "He speaks in his drink what he thought in his drouth." They're a greedy bunch, those English, especially when it comes to booze.
The Lesson? People Loved to Drink, Even in Court
Obviously, anyone who’s got a little too far into their cups can relate to the truth serum-like nature of alcohol. However, those same people would probably tell you that while there was a kernel of truth in their drunken ramblings, there was also likely a lot of garbage not worth repeating to a wall.
We can imagine that the alcohol enjoyed in ancient times was many magnitudes stronger than our Bud Lights today. Nevertheless, if you go out on a Friday night, you’re more than likely to see some people spilling their sober heart with a drunken tongue. The French get the credit for that gem.
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