10 Famous Feasts

A look at the storied dinner parties that have served as a catalyst for some of the most significant moments in history
Alice in Wonderland

Carnegie Mellon

Alice in Wonderland

Invite your closest friends, check. Prepare a decadent menu, check. Pick out the perfect background music, check. Secure the room you'll throw your drunken guests into with pet lions to scare the bejesus out of them, check — wait, what? 

If you were Roman Emperor Heliogabalus, this would be an important line item on your dinner party checklist. Heliogabalus was both famous (and infamous) for his grandiose feasts held in 219 A.D., dropping no less than 10,000 sesterces ($1,000) on a single meal (and up to 3 million sesterces). He didn't have a reputation for keeping a low profile in any aspect of his life — he was a man of excess. It’s said that he first arrived in Rome riding a chariot pulled by naked women, followed by 600 more carrying his belongings. Yet, he didn’t always keep his wealth to himself, often giving away houses, chariots, and even slaves, to his unsuspecting guests; he'd also playfully place pieces of gold and pearls in his guests' peas and rice.

While Heliogabalus’ storied feasts might be some of the earliest and most excessive gatherings, they are certainly not the last. Most recently, former President Clinton celebrated his 65th birthday with a personalized performance by Lady Gaga. Then there is the original presidential serenade, Marilyn Monroe’s sultry “Happy Birthday” performance for President John F. Kennedy in 1962. Or take, for example, the 1816 dinner party at Villa Diodati in Switzerland where the original horror story, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, was born. When the weather turned bad, guests challenged each other to create the scariest story they could. Then there was former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski’s $2 million week-long party in Sardinia to celebrate his wife’s birthday — $1 millon of the cost was billed on the company dime.

Whether it was a dinner party that turned deadly or a rendezvous that resulted in a great work of fiction, breaking bread has served as a catalyst for some of the most significant moments throughout history.

Click here to see the 10 Famous Feasts Slideshow.

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