The existence of modern toilets and toilet paper are often taken for granted by society today. Although we might never know what it is like to live without a toilet or toilet paper, we should reflect on what people used years ago when a toilet and toilet paper were not common essentials. For example, have you ever thought about what the Ancient Romans used? They actually did not use toilet paper. Nor did they have many private bathroom facilities.
The Ancient “Toilet”
The average Ancient Roman citizen did not have a luxurious bathroom equipped with a comfortable toilet to sit upon. In fact, Ancient Roman toilets were quite unpleasant and unsanitary by today’s standards. There was no convenient lighting in the bathroom area, which means the Romans probably missed the toilet often, adding to the uncleanliness of the bathroom.
Ancient Roman Toilet Habits
You could say that the Ancient Romans had an open policy regarding toilets. And, this applied especially to those Romans who were not considered to be wealthy. Wealthy Ancient Romans had their own private toilets in their homes, but this was not for the average Roman. So, what did the regular people use for a toilet, you might be wondering? You can think of their toilet as a pot or bucket of some sort, and these containers were placed around the city centers in specific spots to urinate in. But of course, there were no sewage systems to flush away the waste, so collectors would come around to gather all the urine when it reached a certain height in the bucket. Fun job, right? The urine that was collected was then used as a form of bleach by the Ancient Romans to clean or whiten clothing or animal skin.
That all being said, in Ancient Roman homes, families had their own pot or bucket to urinate in. But, due to the high apartment-style buildings people lived in, there was a growing problem in Ancient Rome…an unsanitary problem. The problem was that families were tossing their full buckets over the balcony or out a window and the waste would fall down to the streets below. Often falling on someone or splashing into the balcony of another occupant on its way down. Because it became a growing problem, Ancient Rome enforced several laws protecting those who were injured by flying fecal matter or urine.
Other Toilets in Ancient Rome
If you didn’t have access to your in-home bucket or pot or the one on the street corner, there was the option of using a public toilet. A public Ancient Roman toilet was located somewhere in the city and made of long rows of stone with holes every few feet. You might now be wondering where is the toilet paper or what did the Ancient Romans use as an alternative? A stick with a sponge or brush on its end is what they used. These sticks were located near the toilets. With the stick and brush, you would clean yourself and then rinse it off afterward. The city of Rome had water that ran through and cleared all the waste from the toilets out and away from the streets; you could say this was Ancient Rome’s form of a sewage system. Although there was fresh water running through to clean excrement or urine away, there was still no concern for any disease that may be spread from the waste.
Bathrooms were not as private as we make them in the Western world. In fact, the Ancient Romans used bathrooms as a place to socialize with friends or make new ones and to hear the latest news. Clearly, using the toilet was not viewed as a private activity but more of a social one.
Now you know all about Ancient Roman toilets or lack of toilet for that matter. While we look at our modern toilets and probably couldn’t imagine having to gather in our city center to use a public toilet with strangers, one has to admit that the Ancient Romans made their impressive system work. The next time you find yourself heading to the bathroom, you can consider yourself lucky to have privacy and a clean toilet to sit upon.