What do you do when you’re in a Roman legion and you need a quick energy boost? It’s time to break out the posca! Posca is an Ancient Roman drink made from vinegar (or spoiled wine), water, salt, honey, and herbs. It was a drink that was associated with the military, and common people. You certainly wouldn’t have found it served alongside Falernian at any fancy dinner parties.
What did posca have going for it that made it so popular? From a logistical standpoint. It was a cheap source of calories that was easy to distribute in bulk. And from a health standpoint, the acidity and alcohol content meant that it killed bacteria, and it was full of antioxidants and Vitamin C.
So what’s the downside? Well, its name possibly comes from epoxos, a Greek word that means ‘very sharp’, so that probably gives you a hint. But if you’d like to try what’s sometimes called the Gatorade of the ancient world, here’s a recipe:
1.5 cups of red wine vinegar
0.5 cups of honey
1 tablespoon of crushed coriander seed
4 cups of water
Boil the honey and let it cool before combining. Strain out the crushed coriander seeds before drinking.
And this is one I haven't been brave enough to try yet, so if you give it a go, let me know what it's like!
Interesting Biblical footnote: Remember how the Roman soldier gave the crucified Jesus vinegar on a sponge to slake his thirst? It's always sounded like a cruel thing to a modern audience, but when you consider that it was posca, not what we think of as vinegar, and that it was probably from the soldier's own rations, it suddenly seems like a very different gesture, doesn't it?
Earlier this month I was asked by Shepherd.com to come up with a list of five books that bring Ancient Rome to life. I think I started with a list of about twenty, and culled it down from there. I ended up with a few novels, and a few history books.
If you'd like to check out the books that helped me build Valerius's Rome, check out the list here: