Puzzling Cups And Jugs

A Pythagorean cup.
A Pythagorean cup.

Pythagorean Cup GIF

To moderate the drinking of workers during water supply works in the Aegean island of Samos, Pythagoras invented the brilliant “fair cup.” If the drinker was too greedy and poured over the limit, a siphoning effect would cause the cup to drain out its entire content. It was built to hold just the optimal quantity of wine.

The “puzzle jug” is a similarly clever device. A puzzle in the shape of a pitcher, with holes all around its neck, it challenged the drinker to drink from it without spilling the liquid. Typically, it had a short verse inscribed on it, such as the one below:

Here gentlemen, come try your skill,
I’ll hold a wager if you will.
That you don’t drink this liquor all,
Without you spill or let some fall.


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