The Most Extravagant Dinner Parties in History

Posted by Ken

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The Billion Dollar Glass of Wine

CleopatraIn one corner, we've got timeless beauty and former Pharaoh of recently-conquered Egypt, Cleopatra. In the other, Marc Antony -- a crass General visiting Egypt in the aftermath of Julius Caesar's assassination

When Marc shows up to see what he's gotten himself into, Cleopatra is ready with a grand banquet to welcome him. Problem is, it's a banquet like none he's ever seen. In front of each place setting is a single cup of wine. And it's kinda nasty tasting too. When Cleo bets him that she can transform it into the "most expensive banquet in history," he's intrigued and signs up for the wager.

It turns out to be a bad move, as Cleopatra is no dummy. She takes the oversized pearl from one of her earrings, dissolves it in her wine and then drinks it down. She then presents him with the other earring. Realizing he's been had, he refuses but acknowledges he's lost the bet.

Pearls were one of the most prized possessions in Ancient Greece. Pliny, author of "History of the World" and a casual observer of the event, estimated the pearls' worth at about sixty million Sesterii. That's about a billion dollars to you and me!

All was not lost for Marc Antony, though. He later married Cleo and fathered a handful of kids -- check out Richard Burton as Marc Antony and Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra in 1963's Cleopatra for Hollywood's take on this love affair.

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