The Origin of “In Vino Veritas”

In vino veritas is a famous Roman expression, which literally translates to “in wine is the truth.” It implies that when someone is drunk, they are more likely to be talkative, truthful, and sincere. From our personal experience, we all know someone who becomes louder and more open about their feelings when intoxicated. In many cases, some people start talking freely from the heart, revealing secrets about themselves. The origin of ‘In vino veritas’ may surprise you.

In Aqua Sanitas

The first person to use this famous expression was Pliny the Elder in AD 77, who wrote a book called Natural History. The book contains a whole chronicle devoted to drinking in Roman society. The author explains it is a warning sign that someone has had too much to drink. “In Aqua Sanitas” comes afterwards, meaning “in water is health.”

Pliny the Elder

Pliny the Elder

Alone, “In vino veritas” is nuanced. It seems to have the negativity of loose-lipped intoxication, but it also hints at a more positive truth, hidden within us and revealed through wine’s mystical ability to elevate our spirits. If we think about this logically and check some basic concepts of modern science, we realize that excessive alcohol consumption may damage the liver and make us dehydrated.

It is interesting that the expression “in wine is the truth, and in water is health” may be interconnected. As we know, water helps with a hangover due to alcohol by hydrating our bodies. This could be the connection between the two expressions.

“In Vino Veritas” and Drunk Confessions?

Some studies report that Romans would use alcohol during the process of sentence hearings. Thus, they would get the suspect drunk to reveal secrets and then question them when sober. This reinforces the idea that alcohol may help to loosen the tongue and reveal hidden truths. While this may not be the most ethical method of interrogation, it is an interesting historical tidbit. Today, of course, we would never resort to such measures!

Today, the “In vino veritas” exudes a more positive connotation, and many wine lovers embrace it. Due to wine bringing people together, it is often a tool for social bonding. In addition, wine plays an important role in religious ceremonies such as mass, where it brings believers closer to God. As a result, the expression “In vino veritas” represents the idea that wine can promote peace and understanding between people.

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A Roman Feast

A Roman Feast; Roberto Bompiani (Italian (Roman), 1821 – 1908); late 19th century; Oil on canvas; The J. Paul Getty Museum, 72.PA.4

References

  1. “In vino veritas” proverb. 2020, Jan 15. Retrieved from Uv Matris: https://uvamatris.com/en/2020/01/il-proverbio-in-vino veritas/#:~:text=First%20of%20all%2C%20let%20us,in%20wine%20is%20the%20truth%C2%BB.&text=Although%20the%20origin%20is%20Greek,by%20the%20Latins%2C%20wine%20lovers.
  2. Kruszelnicki, K. S. 2004, July 8. “The Truth of The Matter.” Retrieved from ABC Science: https://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2004/07/08/1147613.htm?site=science/greatmomentsinscience
  3. McIntyre, D. 2018, June 4. “In Vino Veritas.” Retrieved from Dave McIntyre’s WineLine: https://dmwineline.wordpress.com/2018/06/04/in-vino-veritas/
  4. McIntyre, D. 2018, May 25. “On the power of a shared glass.” Retrieved from The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/on-the-power-of-a-shared-glass/2018/05/24/13c8d764-5eae-11e8-9ee3-49d6d4814c4c_story.html

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