The Truth About Mark Antony And Cleopatra's Drinking Club

We tend to envision historical figures like bored students nodding off above the blurring lines of a textbook — forgetting that our all-too-human whims of humor, rancor, and stupidity aren't recent evolutionary developments. They're in our genes.

For example, in addition to being the shrewd, manipulative ruler of ancient Egypt, Cleopatra was also a prank-playing boozehound. It was love at first sight when she met Roman general Mark Antony in 41 BC — and what's a girl to do when she falls for a handsome, divine descendant of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine? Live it up, of course!

Food and Wine magazine did some historical digging and found that the couple immortalized by writers such as William Shakespeare (who may have never even existed) and silver screen stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, founded their own drinking club to let the good times roll. According to the Ancient History Encyclopedia, historical consensus is split on whether or not the group called "Inimitable Livers" was a sect devoted to worshiping Dionysus, or merely a highfalutin excuse to get hammered. Of course, considering the church's drunken divinity, one is prompted to ask: What's the difference?

Punked by the most famous power couple in history

Exactly how does one worship the god of wine? Dull services, litanies, and silent prayers obviously won't do. A typical night at Antony and Cleopatra's drinking club tended to be a drunken feast followed by a bit of divine debauchery. The History Channel reports that they loved "wandering the streets of Alexandria in disguise and playing pranks on its residents."

But even tricks on each other weren't out of bounds for this dipsomaniacal duo. A paper published in The Classic Journal in 1957 noted a story in Pliny the Elder's Natural History in which Cleopatra made a bet with her lover that she could spend "10,000,000 sesterces" — estimated to be as much as $20 million in today's currency — on a single dinner. To Antony's surprise, she ordered a modest meal (for a queen) and a glass of vinegar (don't question the queen) with dessert. When the odd choice of beverage arrived, she plucked a pearl from her ear and dropped the priceless adornment into the vinegar. After it dissolved "into slush," as Pliny put it, ancient Egypt's most romantic monarch drank it down and won the extravagant bet.

But you don't get to the point where you're chugging $20-million cocktails without having first killed a sibling or two, and her drinking club with Mark Antony is likely just one of a number of weird things you didn't know about Cleopatra.