What's the Latin word for the person at cena who decided whether more or less water was added to the wine to keep the party going steadily?

  • 1
    Interesting question! Have you read somewhere that there was a person with this duty? Any indication of the origin of this idea might help find a word in the literature.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Aug 1, 2016 at 20:41
  • 2
    @Joonas - It was actually information that a professor provided during a lecture years ago, and my brain was itching to recall the term. They correlated it with a modern bartender.
    – DaftDeath
    Aug 1, 2016 at 21:54

1 Answer 1


The Latin term for this is magister bibendi or arbiter bibendi, or "master of drinking." Here's some context:

After a roll of the dice, a magister bibendi was chosen. By appointing a certain ratio of water to wine to be mixed in the cups, this so-called "master of the drinking" then decided the strength of the wine to be drunk. (Latin for Dummies)

And in A Companion to Latin Studies, §250:

Drinking at the cena was moderate, but it was frequently followed by a drinking bout called cōmissatio. One of the guests was chosen magister or arbiter bibendi, and his function was to decide the respective proportions of wine and water.

Horace mentions the latter option in Odes, 2.7:

curatve myrto? quem Venus arbitrum
dicet bibendi?
non ego sanius
bacchabor Edonis: recepto
dulce mihi furere est amico.

Who’ll throw high Venus at dice and so become
the master of drink? I’ll rage as insanely
as any Thracian: It’s sweet to me
to revel when a friend is home again. (translation source)

  • 2
    As a supplement to this, the Vulgate uses the Greek term to refer to the "master of the feast": architriclinus
    – brianpck
    Aug 1, 2016 at 21:24
  • Interesting! I wonder what the difference is between that and symposiarchos, which is what I found corresponding in Greek. Aug 1, 2016 at 21:45
  • Wonderful, the sources for context makes it all the more interesting and helpful!
    – DaftDeath
    Aug 1, 2016 at 21:56
  • @Nathaniel I've just spent 30 miins looking this up before I saw your excellent answer! ؛-)
    – TheHonRose
    Aug 2, 2016 at 1:02
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    @Nathaniel I don't know about the magister bibendi, but the symposiarch had charge of a number of aspects of the evening: not just the water-to-wine ratio and how many cups were to be drunk, but also things like what the entertainment/activity was to be to accompany each round of drinking (riddles? word-play? quoting?) and so on. Aug 3, 2016 at 14:33

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