Demons, Rats, And Cesspools The State Of Toilets And The Sewage System In Ancient Rome.

Sanitation in ancient Rome was much more advanced than in other ancient cities: there were sewers, public latrines, baths, and other infrastructure, but these did not seem to be able to contain the multiplication of problems. related to sanitation. One of the oldest sewers in the world, the  Cloaca Massima, is in Rome. This was built at the end of the sixth century BC and, active for over 2,500 years, the Cloaca Massima is still in working order today. 


image credit: phys/pinterest

Despite the importance of the cesspool and its fascination as historical testimony, we cannot ignore the hygiene problems: the sewers and ancient Roman water systems do not meet the demands and needs of modern times. Today we tend to think of sewers for collecting garbage from the streets and wastes from toilets, but the sewage system of ancient Rome was born for water drainage, not disposal. dirt. In fact, at the time, most toilets did not have a sewer connection. Almost all private homes had toilets that were not connected to the sewer lines: they were called ” pit toilets.” and they were often located in the kitchen. The collected waste was then sold to farmers, who used it as fertilizer, or it was used in vegetable gardens to fertilize plants.


image credit: phys/pinterest

The sanitary situation in ancient Rome was not very good: even public toilets were considered unsafe from a hygienic point of view. They were damp, dirty, located in small spaces, and made up of long, bench-like seats with hole-shaped openings. Some latrines were free, others were chargeable. But going to the public restroom was not a particularly attractive option: rats and small vermin were thought to be escaping from the toilet seats. In public toilets, the goddess Fortune was often depicted, a kind of “guardian angel” who protected the guest. In addition, it was believed that demons came out of black holes from sewers and hid in them: perhaps this is also why the Romans avoided connections between sewers and toilets in houses. Can you imagine such conditions?

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