E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
was a Roman custom. Thus, in Plautus, we read of a man drinking to his mistress with these words: Bene vos, bene nos, bene te, bene me, bene nostrum etiam Stephanium (Heres to you, heres to us all, heres to thee, heres to me, heres to our dear ). (Stich. v. 4.) Persius (v. 1, 20) has a similar verse Bene mihi; bene vobis, bene amicæ nostræ (Heres to myself, heres to you, and heres to I shant say who). Martial, Ovid, Horace, etc., refer to the same custom.
The ancient Greeks drank healths. Thus, when Theramns was condemned by the Thirty Tyrants to drink hemlock, he said Hoc pulcro Critiæthe man who condemned him to death.
The ancient Saxons followed the same habit, and Geoffrey of Monmouth says that Hengist invited King Vortigern to a banquet to see his new levies. After the meats were removed, Rowena, the beautiful daughter of Hengist, entered with a golden cup full of wine, and, making obeisance, said, Lauerd kining, wacht heil (Lord King, your health). The king then drank and replied, Drine heil (Heres to you). (Geoffrey of Monmouth, book vi. 12.) Robert de Brunne refers to this custom:
This is ther custom and hev gest
When they are at the ale or fest;
Ilk man that levis gware him drink
Salle say Wossellë to him drink.
He that biddis sall say Wassaile,
The tother salle say again Drinkaille.
That says Woisseille drinks of the cup,
Kiss and his felaw he gives it up.
Robert de Brunne.
In drinking healths we hold our hands up towards the person toasted and say, Your health . . The Greeks handed the cup to the person toasted and said, This to thee, Græci in eplis poclum alicui traditri, eum nominare solent. Our holding out the wine-glass is a relic of this Greek custom.