ancient roman toilets

The Surprising History of How the Ancient Romans Relieved Themselves: From Private Toilets Tucked into Corners to Communal Public Latrines

Innovative though but Roman public latrines were pretty gross. They were unhygienic and barely used by upper-class Romans.

Romans were way ahead of their time in their adoption of communal toilets. Almost every Roman city had large public latrines, where many people – often 20 or more – could relieve themselves in remarkably opulent settings.

‘Latrine’ usually describes a private toilet built in someone’s home. In ancient Rome, latrines were usually engineered love a cesspit. Whereas public toilets of Rome were called foricae. They were often attached to public baths, whose water was used for flushing down the filth

Private Toilets in Ancient Rome

This is what most of the private toilets in ancient used to look like. Obviously, they look quite awful but Romans were way ahead in implementing the concept of having toilets.

A toilet under Herculaneum

Private toilets were usually tucked into corners of houses and shops. Many were located in or near kitchens, so that food scraps could be tipped down the hatch.

Some used to be in upper stories and serviced by what must have been distressingly leaky terracotta pipes. Few private toilets were connected to sewers, for the excellent reason they had no traps, and thus allowed everything in the sewers – from noxious gasses to clawing rats – to make its way into one’s home.

Public Latrines in Ancient Rome

A Roman public latrine among the remains of Ostia-Antica.

Now it must come pretty minimalistic but it was an innovation that set a path for improvement. Usually, these public toilets had the capacity to let 20-30 people relieve themselves at a time.

But, Some were quite small, like the single-seat latrines perched atop Rome’s Aurelian walls or the 2-seaters on the ground floor of many apartment buildings. Most had at least a dozen seats. Some were considerably larger, like the 50-seater (complete with a heated floor) in the Forum of Julius Caesar, and the 68-seater in the Roman Agora of Athens. A few may have had room for as many as 80 patrons.

These public toilets were mostly built with charity from upper classes citizens.

How the Ancient Romans Went to the Toilet?

The public toilets in Ancient Roman history were more of a place to socialize rather than relieve oneself. The communal toilets included long wooden benches with holes cut in them which had water flowing below them.

After uplifting themselves, they would wipe themselves with a stick that had sea sponge. The stick was communal and everyone would use the same stick after freeing themselves.

 Romans used to wipe themselves with a sponge on a stick, which was shared by everybody.

Apparently, Roman called it( the sponge attached to the stick) a xylospongium.

This is what xylospongium looked like!


In the center, these toilets had a stream of clean water in which Romans used to dip the xylosopngium( stick with a sponge). In upper-class toilets, the sponge was then thrown into a special container for cleaning by the slaves and then was restored for reuse.

These public toilets were no help to women.

The public toilets of Rome weren’t built to accommodate women. Women barely used these public toilets. Public toilets were mostly built around the areas where men had business.

The upper class too barely used these toilets unless desperate. They used private toilets. Even more wealthy preferred private chamber pots cleaned by slaves.

Urine was collected and sold.

In Rome urine was precious. It was collected from the public latrines and sold. It was used to grow juicy fruits as urine is actually a good fertilizer full of nitrogen and phosphorus.

Roman used urine as a Mouthwash and to
Whiten Teeth.

Roman used both human and animal urine to whiten their teeth. Urine contains ammonia which poses a good cleansing property.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *