war on the rocks

Let’s Drink like Persians

September 18, 2015

Think of the last time you were at your local saloon and got into a fiery debate about love, politics, sports, or some other abstract concept. Now, ask yourself an important question: Would I have said that if I was sober? Around 430 BCE, the Greek historian Herodotus, after traveling throughout the ancient Persian Empire, wrote his widely-known narrative History about his journey, which included intricate details about the customs of the Persians he observed. In Book I, Chapter 133, Herodotus describes something the Persians did that I believe should become a mainstay of our society:

It is also their general practice to deliberate upon affairs of weight when they are drunk; and then on the morrow, when they are sober, the decision to which they came the night before is put before them by the master of the house in which it was made; and if it is then approved of, they act on it; if not, they set it aside. Sometimes, however, they are sober at their first deliberation, but in this case they always reconsider the matter under the influence of wine.

Let’s be honest here, everyone reading this who has put back a few too many has had some grandiose ideas at the bar only to wake up the next morning and ask themselves: “What the hell was I thinking?” Sometimes you might even wake up next to someone and have that same thought, but that’s a different topic altogether. Anyone who can relate to that last sentence knows that alcohol drowns out your inhibitions post-haste. Drinking alcohol depresses the function of your cerebral cortex (where your thought processing is achieved) and leads you to think differently than you would sober. It doesn’t have to be all regrets and walks of shame however, as this same inhibition-lowering power is the reason ancient Persians believed in the two-part debate system.

My late grandfather believed that truth comes out when you’re drunk. It was this reasoning that caused him to offer as many shots of vodka as possible to potential suitors for his three daughters upon meeting them at dinner (tricks my father and uncle didn’t fall for — they’re still happily married after passing that test). My anecdotal evidence throughout life leads me to believe that my grandfather was absolutely correct in his observation. Of course, there is a bit of calculus to be done on how much you drink versus how much of what you’re doing is actually the truth waiting to escape. There are always times in everyone’s life when you drink that jungle juice in a dorm party and the night goes black. It’s moments like those that will lead you not to eye-opening conversations about ideas, but to rethink your life choices.

I imagine the Persians of yesteryear kept their drinking to a reasonable level while having the “buzzed” portion of their discussion. This would make sense, given the hard evidence that a few drinks really do take the edge off the anxiousness and awkwardness, while too many might leave you alone and jobless. For you drinkers out there, I recommend the next time you’re feeling like Atlas and can’t seem to shrug off the weight on your shoulders, knock back a few and let your mind open to new information and possibilities. Just don’t overindulge, lest you find yourself wandering the streets in last night’s clothes.

 

Andre Gziryan is a Soviet-born American who prefers G.I. Joe to Uncle Joe. He is a former barman who currently works as an international trade analyst at the Department of Commerce. What he lacks in military knowledge he makes up for with a love of all things creative and spirituous.

 

Photo credit: MsSaraKelly