We have all fantasized about what we’ll do if we ever won a million dollars. Lavish mansions, sports cars, designer clothes, rare jewels, private jets… There’s nothing we wouldn’t spend our money on!
Extravagance has been an old friend of the rich and the affluent. Even in the Ancient World, the rich enjoyed a life of luxury and privilege. Wealth gave way to indulgence and indulgence gave way to pure, unadulterated pleasure.
From public gatherings at luscious banquets to secret meetings in opium dens, here’s a list of six fascinating things the rich did in ancient times.
6. Banquets and Balls
When you are the Emperor of the World, having a sumptuous fifteen course meal is simply not enough. It is said that when Nero, Emperor of Rome, threw banquets the coffers in his treasury ran dry. Nero’s feasts were an elaborate display of gluttony and promiscuity. He would summon exotic birds and voluptuous dancers from all corners of his empire. The gardens were decorated with gold and ivory fittings for every banquet. The guests were treated to succulent meats, fine wines, foreign delicacies and even edible gold!
5. Fashion and Jewels
Many monarchs have gone down in history as trendsetters and fashion icons. None more so famous than Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France. Marie was barely an adult when she became the Queen of France. But she soon became the Queen of Fashion all across Europe. Her head-dresses were one meter tall and her shoes were inlaid with precious gem stones. Marie Antoinette, along with Rose Bertin, invented Haute Couture. In the 1780s, it was rumoured that the Queen had commissioned the Parisian Crown jewellers to make an exquisite diamond necklace. Today, the same necklace would cost more than $14 million.
4. Chillum and Hashish
Long before the arrival of cigarettes and the discovery of tobacco, chillums were used to inhale hashish. Smoking a chillum was considered the signature style of royalty in ancient times. The primitive version of a hookah, chillum according to folklore was used to heighten the senses and sharpen the mind. Old scripts depict Lord Shiva smoking weed from a chillum while relaxing at the Mansarovar Lake. Indian sadhus have been smoking chillums for thousands of years. They describe it as a spiritual experience that inspires noble souls.
It is a universally known fact that monks and sages were the first to ferment yeast and brew beer. Humans have been consuming alcohol since before 8000 B.C. A peculiar drink that finds mention in ancient Vedic scriptures, called ‘the drink of the gods’, is Somras. Legend suggests this particular narcotic was so intoxicating that sages claimed it gave them powers like clairvoyance and telepathy. Kings and rich noblemen were addicted to the consumption of Somras. They believed it gave them strength, agility and immortality.
2. Gambling and Games
History says that gambling existed even before man invented money. In Ancient China, men would gather for a game of chance and bet on their land, cattle or even their wives. Gambling in the ancient world was considered a game of planning and strategy. Apart from gambling, kings would organize chariot races and jousting tournaments for the entertainment of the courtiers. Rome became famous for its spectacular amphitheatres and gladiator arenas.
1. Opium Dens
Opium was first cultivated in Mesopotamia, where it was called ‘the plant of joy’. Opium seeds became popular for their euphoric effects and soon merchants began selling them across borders. Alexander the Great, in 330 B.C., introduced opium to the people of Persia and India. European noblemen started eating ‘stones of immortality’ that were made from opium mixtures. Merchants made their fortune through the opium smuggling trade. Opium dens throughout Europe became infamous for their royal patrons. Writers and poets popularized opium for its recreational use. A few decades later, opium became the base for another powerful narcotic, heroin.