Drink like the Ancients With a 16th Century Manual On How to Drink!


Author Michael Fontaine is professor of classics and associate vice provost of undergraduate education at Cornell University. His books include Funny Words in Plautine Comedy and The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Comedy. He has a new book coming out in the market that everyone will love.

The forthcoming book, How to Drink: A Classical Guide to the Art of Imbibing (Publication date: April 2020), is a new translation of Vincent Obsopoeus 1536 manuscript The Art of Drinking (De Arte Bibendi).


Obsopoeus was a Renaissance humanist and neoclassical poet, that grew up in the winelands of sixteenth century Germany. There he witnessed a new culture of bingeing, hazing, peer pressure, and competitive drinking. Alarmed, and inspired by the Roman poet Ovid’s Art of Love, he wrote The Art of Drinking a manual for drinking with pleasure and discrimination. In How to Drink, Michael Fontaine offers the first proper English translation of Obsopoeus’s text, rendering his poetry into spirited, contemporary prose and uncorking a forgotten classic that will appeal to drinkers of all kinds and (legal) ages.

Arguing that moderation, not abstinence, is the key to lasting sobriety, and that drinking can be a virtue if it is done with rules and limits, Obsopoeus teaches us how to manage our drinking, how to win friends at social gatherings, and how to give a proper toast. But he also says that drinking to excess on occasion is okay—and he even tells us how to win drinking games, citing extensive personal experience.

Complete with the original Latin on facing pages, this sparkling work is as intoxicating today as when it was first published.