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Weird History 1: Roman Toilet Behaviour

Published by AndAnotherThing in History
October 15th, 2008

Weird stuff in history relating to toilets. Amuse your children when you recount these articles and teach them about history and other important matters while doing so.

Nowadays we go to “the rest room” (US vernacular) or to “the toilet” in the UK.  Although some men use group urinals to pee, they use lockable and private toilet cubicles for anything more.  Women use private toilet cubicles to pee and anything else.  Though normally we use the same space to wash our hands (because we don’t like to spread germs) we would never consider doing anything that involved sitting on a toilet in a communal setting.

Oh how times have changed!

Romans in the Rest Room or On the Toilet

In Roman cities, throughout the Roman Empire – which stretched from Italy throughout most of modern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa – toilets were completely communal.  Men and women used the same public toilets in Roman times.  This alone illustrates just how much times have changed – but it gets worse!

Not only did men and women use the same toilets but the toilets were arranged in a circle and next to each other!   Could it have been any worse?  I’m afraid it can!  In Roman days – and they were in charge until 1500 years ago – there was no such thing as toilet paper.  Instead Romans used a piece of natural sponge (the type you find at the bottom of oceans).  There is no evidence from history that Romans carried their own toilet-sponges.  There is evidence however that they shared a communal sponge… There is no evidence of hand-washing facilities in Roman times… YUK!

Conclusion

Say “err” and “yuk” a lot and have a laugh at the Romans – but remember no other super-power (save perhaps the Chinese) has had as much artistic, cultural and economic success since Roman times.  To finish this tale ask children if they are glad that they live today rather than Roman times. 

Further Activities

Check out some more facts about Romans online.  Look at the size of the Roman Empire and discover what the Romans discovered before anyone else.

Find an example of a Roman communal toilet on the web.  CLUE: one exists in near perfect condition in modern day Tunisia.

Tip

Referring to this story is a great way of illustrating to children just how much times have changed in 1500 years. 

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2 Comments
  1. SamP
    Posted October 15, 2008 at 10:55 am

    more like this please

  2. Wilma Proops
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 6:22 am

    Please do not lower the tone of this article with your idiotic comments. This article is for children – you should be ashamed of yourselves and I hope you apologise.

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