Fresh from conquests in Egypt and Spain, and known as a party guy, he was ready for some fun. He bathed, took a walk on the beach and then, helped by emetics, "ate and drank without scruple" .
And why not? It was the feast of Saturn, the god of agriculture - the mid-December celebration called Saturnalia, a huge Roman favourite. Citizens would untie the bound feet of the god's statue on December 17, and a week of carrying-on would begin.
Seneca the younger wrote about Rome during Saturnalia around AD 50:
"It is now the month of December, when the greatest part of the city is in a bustle. Loose reins are given to public dissipation; everywhere you may hear the sound of great preparations, as if there were some real difference between the days devoted to Saturn and those for transacting business....Were you here, I would willingly confer with you as to the plan of our conduct; whether we should eve in our usual way, or, to avoid singularity, both take a better supper and throw off the toga." - From the "Epistolae"Schools were closed. Gifts were exchanged. Masters and slaves swapped roles. Drinking, gambling, feasting and "singing naked" would take place, according to one writer of the time.
Now, 2 000 years later, ancient Rome is in ruins, but this stubborn December tradition survives -
(*Terrence - "Nothing to Excess")