National Drink of Ancient Egypt
from the book, "Petrified Lightning"

Book: 
Petrified Lightning

National Drink of Ancient Egypt

Alcoholic beverages of various sorts have been causing high spirits and hangovers since the days of the Egyptian pharaohs. Barley beer was discovered around 4200 b.c. and rapidly became the national drink of Egypt. It was the cause of significant problems almost from the start.

Ancient hieroglyphics indicate that "houses of beer," the equivalent of modern saloons, began springing up about 2980 b.c. and that by 2160 b.c. alcohol abuse was common. The Egyptians even had their equivalent of the present—day happy hour. It was called "Day of Intoxication" to honor Hathor, the goddess of drinking.

Harsh measures were used to deal with those who overindulged in alcohol. Some wall paintings portray drunkards being flogged mercilessly with a stout stick and then imprisoned. These appear to be the lucky ones, as those in alcoholic stupor were often left on the banks of the Nile to be robbed, beaten, or even eaten by crocodiles.

Relaxed laws concerning public intoxication resulted in public orgies such as those in which Antony and Cleopatra are said to have indulged. Such parties, common for the upper class, compared in intensity to the uninhibited merriment of wild parties through the ages. One anonymous historian cites the case of a drunken Egyptian lady "who became immoderately mad, and afterward so lascivious that she immediately embraced every man she met. From laughing and singing she went over to rage and wanted to fight everybody."

Another Egyptian scribe describes a mother who delivered "three loaves of bread and two jars of beer daily" to her son (age unknown) who was away at school. Professors of that era often warned their students that "beer causes the soul to wander."

The ancient Egyptians are credited with inventing drunk tanks, steam rooms for hangovers, and drying—out shelters. Boozing it up became a boon for pharaohs; when the royal coffers were reaching the empty mark, they would quickly slap heavy taxes on beer.