What Did a Cupbearer Do in Ancient Mesopotamia?

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For the people of ancient Mesopotamia, the job of a cupbearer was a rather esteemed and respected one. Kings of the era were assigned cupbearers, who were trusty staff members responsible for overseeing all of their dining activities. Cupbearers in ancient Mesopotamia worked closely alongside not only kings, but also government workers.

1 Food Testing for the King

Kings in ancient Mesopotamia placed a lot of trust in their cupbearers. Before kings consumed their meals, their cupbearers tested the safety of everything first by tasting the foods. This applied not only to foods, but also to beverages, as well. By tasting everything beforehand, the cupbearers ensured that their kings’ meals weren’t tampered with — and therefore weren't dangerously toxic. Cupbearers were key positions in many different cultures throughout history.

2 Overseeing the King's Dining Utensils

Cupbearers in ancient Mesopotamia were also in charge of overseeing all of the king’s opulent dining utensils. They frequently listed and monitored the king's utensils, from dishes to cups. This was particularly crucial when kings went on trips to other areas, as their valuable silver and gold items often accompanied them.

3 Providing Beverages to the King

As the title of their job indicates, a major duty of cupbearers was to provide beverages — inside cups — at the king's dining table. The pouring of beverages was a primary responsibility for cupbearers in ancient Mesopotamia. Wine was the typical drink that cupbearers provided to their kings.

4 Other Common Cupbearer Duties

The job of a cupbearer in ancient Mesopotamia often went far beyond that of simply looking after the king's dining needs. Since kings placed significant confidence in their cupbearers, they sometimes even relied on them for other things, perhaps even official communication on their behalf and analyzing their dreams. Sargon I was a King of Kish who actually started out as a cupbearer to a king. Kish is the name of the city that was located to Babylon’s north. Sargon was believed to have helped his king analyze his dreams. Although Sargon started out working for the king, he actually eventually drove him out of power. Sargon I was considered to be responsible for establishing Mesopotamia’s first legitimate empire, which is referred to as the Akkadian Empire. Sargon I’s empire spanned roughly two centuries or so, although it ended around 2,100 B.C.