Wednesday, 27 April 2005

Public Lavatories in Rome

Public lavatories did exist in ancient Rome, but they were nothing like what we have today. For one thing, I am using the term 'public' in its most literal sense because there was no such thing as privacy. There were no cubicles to separate those making use of the facilities. The procedure was conducted in full public view. Moreover, it was considered perfectly normal for people to meet there, defecate and discuss the news and gossip of the day - discoursing from both orifices. Despite this openness the surroundings were extremely well decorated - who knows, perhaps in order to inspire the users. The lavatory seats were made of marble, around them there was a continuous flow of water, while above them one could often see niches with little statues of gods, heroes, etc. Sometimes there was even a fountain in the room. However, even at the imperial palace, where one would expect to find privacy in these situations, the lavatories had three seats, side by side.

9 comments:

Claire said...

If you're after a fascinating public toilet story check out what late 17th-century midwife Marie Hobry did with her husband's head in the toilets at the Savoy.

Alterior said...

She didn't flush it down did she? Oh dear...
Where can one read this story?

Claire said...

Yep she flushed it down. There's a book called Murder in Shakespeare's England by Vanessa McMahon that it's probably in. If you can't find it in there there's an article on her by the same woman in a postgraduate papers publication I edited called Heroes and Villains. That's available from my university although I'd try Vanessa's book first.

Alterior said...

I will definitely try that and let you know if I find it.

By the way, please feel free to offer advice etc. when you see I have made a mistake with something. Then I can correct it. I really appreciate it. :-))

Thanks :-))

Claire said...

I don't think there's anything I know that you don't know. :-)Because I've been working on my PhD I'm very specialised in one particular area.

Alterior said...

It is an honour to have a PhD student on my blog!:-)

That book you mentioned, is it academic or mainstream? I seem to recall seing something like that in a bookshop, a while back.

Thanks,
A.

Bystander said...

Most French campsites had similar arrangements in the Sixties. The men's urinals were on an outside wall, and the toilets proper (squat or, less often, sit) had partitions but no doors.

The French are a lot less squeamish about bodily functions than the rosbifs to this day.

PS, like the blog, have linked to mine

Alterior said...

First of all, thanks for liking my blog, I am very pleased to hear it! :-))) Secondly, it is very nice to have a magistrate amongst my readers. :-)))

By the way, I like your blog as well and will link to you too as soon as I can get hold of my html notes tonight. :-)

I have heard this about the French, and I believe the notorious 'biddet' is one of their inventions. ;-)

Anonymous said...

hello im mike in wasington state usa its possible they may hae had sheets or curtains,linens in the roman lavatories to screen yourself in or to get a sence of privacy i like history reading especially roman/greek medevel period