Saturday 27 March
10 AM GMT
11 AM CET
9 PM AEDT
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.