The Banquet of Chestnuts, known more properly as the Ballet of Chestnuts, refers to a fête in Rome, and particularly to a supper held in the Papal Palace by Don Cesare Borgia, son of Pope Alexander VI on October 30, 1501. An account of the banquet is preserved in Protonotary Apostolic and Master of Ceremonies Johann Burchard's Liber Notarum.
The banquet was given in Cesare's apartments in the palazzo apostolico. Fifty prostitutes or courtesans were in attendance for the entertainment of the banquet guests. After the food was eaten, lampstands holding lighted candles were placed on the floor and chestnuts strewn about. The courtesans' clothes were auctioned; then they and the prostitutes crawled naked between the candelabras to pick up the chestnuts. Immediately following the spectacle, members of the clergy and other party guests together engaged the prostitutes in sexual activity. According to Burchard, "prizes were offered - silken doublets, pairs of shoes, hats and other garments - for those men who were most successful with the prostitutes"
According to William Manchester, "Servants kept score of each man's orgasms, for the pope greatly admired virility and measured a man's machismo by his ejaculative capacity. He also refers to use of sex toys. Burchard, however, makes no reference to this in his account of the banquet.
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