Roman toilets were quite stinky, large international study reveals


Yes, the Romans had toilets and sewage. No, they didn’t match our idea of a clean bathroom in no way. Their toilets were stinking, disease spreading places, which gave rats and snakes an easy entrance to the house. This, and much more is to be read in the newly published, extensive study: Roman Toilets. Their Archaeology and Cultural History, edited by Gemma Jansen, Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow en Eric M. Moormann.

Specialists in archeology, anthropology and classical history brought together all current knowledge on this humble topic, and included all known Latin, Greek and Hebrew texts on the subject, both in the original text as in translation.

Gemma Jansen explains, “Multi-seater latrines, as we find them in Roman Ostia and in many other sites across the Mediterranean, are well known both to tourists and archaeologists, but very few people understand how they really functioned technically or how they may have been perceived in the context of Roman society.

“It is a new research area really. Everyday topics like going to the toilet were long taboo in science. I’m excited that it changed: everything is different than you think from your modern perspective. Image there was no toilet paper. people shared a sponge on a stick.”

Chapters on the technology and construction of toilets, on the archaeology of toilets and their contents, on toilets in various ancient contexts (such as in private houses, baths, or military installations), on the impact of toilets on society and personal hygiene, especially in the Roman world, and on the decorations and graffiti from toilets, all combine to make this the most complete study of this important subject to date.

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