Latrines and Sewers: the Etiquette and Logistics of Going to the Bathroom in Antiquity – Saturday 27 March

Saturday 27 March


With Dr. Eireann Marshall

While there are plenty of archaeological remains to tell us how people relieved themselves in antiquity, from latrines to chamber-pots, we are less able to discern their bathroom etiquette. Archaeological sites from all over the Roman empire abound in examples of foricae or latrines which indicate that people, at least on occasion, micturated communally but we are at a loss to know whether these loos were uni-sex or whether people chose to sit next to one another.

Until recently, it was often assumed that people cleansed themselves with sponges on sticks, that was until the discovery of cloth squares found in the Herculaneum sewerage, though this only begs more questions about toilet hygiene. Most Romans would have used chamber-pots on a daily basis, which we know about from the archaeological record as well as from literature, memorably the silver chamber-pot used by Trimalchio in the Satyricon.

While excavations in the Vesuvian towns allow us to see that Romans often placed effluence-pits in their kitchens and that the remains were collected by stercorarii, just how this worked isn’t known. There are gaps in our knowledge about the logistics of these most basic functions in the ancient world, which they are sadly often not elucidated by ancient literature.

Your Lecturer

Dr Eireann Marshall

Dr Eireann Marshall is a Research Associate and Associate Lecturer with the Open University. She has published a number of articles on Ancient North Africa, and co-edited volumes on 'Death and Disease in the Ancient City' and ‘Women’s influence on Classical Civilisation’. Eireann has led many tours for specialist tour operators, to Italy and North Africa. In 2019 she was awarded Wanderlust Magazine's Top History & Culture Guide at its World Guide Awards.

Event Details

Date: 27 March 2021

Start time: 10:00 a.m. BST

End time: 11:30 a.m. BST

Venue: Zoom Lecture


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