I thirst," said Jesus on the cross, "and they gave him... vinegar?
Although there are several biblical references to this event, which occurred when Jesus Christ was already crucified, I will stick to the Gospel according to John, which in chapter 19 reads as follows:
Then, knowing that all things were now accomplished, and that the scripture might be fulfilled to the end, Jesus said, "I am thirsty.
There was a basin full of vinegar; they soaked a sponge in it, tied it to a branch of hyssop, and put it to his mouth.
When they had drunk the vinegar, Jesus said, "All things have been fulfilled". And bowing his head, he gave up his spirit.
Without going into the intention of those who offered it to him or the meaning of Jesus' words beyond the literal, this story has to do with vinegar, or rather, supposed vinegar. What was a "vessel full of vinegar" doing there? The answer to this question is much simpler if we think that it was not vinegar but posca.
If previously we talked about the best wines of Antiquity, in this one we are going to talk about what nowadays we would call "wines with a pellicle". Posca was a drink made by mixing water and crushed or vinegary wine. Normally, it was the wine consumed by citizens who could not afford a higher quality wine and, above all, by the legions of Rome in their many campaigns of conquest throughout the known world. And although it tasted rather unpleasant, it had several advantages over wine: it was very cheap, there was no danger of spoilage - it was already stale - and it was the safest way to drink water (the Egyptians used wine as an antiseptic and the Persians used it as a germicide). So, as Jesus Christ was guarded on the cross by Roman soldiers, it is easier to place a "vessel full of posca" than a "vessel full of vinegar" in this scene.
Curiously, and as a result of excessive devotion and smoke peddlers who wanted to make a profit, the sponge and the branch of hyssop with which the soldiers gave him the posca are preserved as relics of the Passion of Christ (?). The sponge, divided into several parts, is venerated in the Holy Chapel in Paris, in the Basilica of the Escorial, and in the Basilicas of St John Lateran, St Mary Major and St Mary Trastevere in Rome.
In addition to being the drink that accompanied the legions, posca was also used as an ingredient in some of the recipes that Marcus Gavius Apicius included in De re coquinaria, an authentic treatise on gastronomy in ancient Rome:
Panem Alexandrinum excavabis, in posca macerabis. Adicies in mortarium piper, mel, mentam, alium, coriandrum viridem, caseum bubulum sale conditum, aquam, oleum. Insuper nivem et inferes (A loaf of Alexandria bread is hollowed out, macerated in posca. In a mortar put pepper, honey, mint, garlic, fresh coriander, cow's cheese seasoned with salt, water, oil. Cover with snow and serve.)