Our bathroom habits are routine. We have privacy whenever and wherever we want. There is never a necessity, other than a serious emergency, for us to use an outside facility. During the realm of the Roman Empire your routine would have been challenged. Sitting on the bowl in the wide open, waving at Julius Caesar (he made such a great salad) during a Triumph through The Aventine, would be a stunning scene in today’s world. Considering the Roman diet was decidedly higher in grains and fiber than ours, these holes would have been put to good use.
I can’t imagine sitting on a pot with the person next to me, scrunch-faced and chatting as if we’re waiting for a bus. No walls, no barrier, just our bloomers around our ankles, shooting the breeze. It’s tough enough remaining quiet when there are stalls. In the open, you can’t be mum. The guy sitting on the adjacent hole may want to talk. You can’t be rude and avoid the conversation. Otherwise, you will be considered a jerk. I suppose it was fairly awkward reading slate tablets, rather than the newspaper or a magazine, but without the solitude, you had to lay down the newsoid and listen.
I’ve written about the over and under TP roll. Sitting in the open during number two, beats any lack of proper materials or the direction of the pull. Are the mores of today any better for us than during the days of open potties? We think it’s nasty, but for the Romans it was the norm. Louise Pasteur wasn’t around, so they didn’t really know about bacteria and stuff. Our exposed genitalia wasn’t considered as naughty and disgusting as now. We were humans, with normal needs. Society didn’t really care that we emitted waste.
Fortunately, the lack of stalls eliminated most of the bathroom graffiti. It is important to note; however, that the series of privy poems about The Young Man from Nantucket or Azores, originated during the reign of Caligula. The felt-tipped pen wasn’t invented before this period. Potty Laureates had to be creative.
A friend came into my office the other day to discuss “Urinal Protocol.” I do agree with him that indeed we have developed habits. If a man walks into an empty bathroom, which receptacle does he use? If there is more than one user, with more than one trap, where do you line up? In Ancient Rome it was no problem. For us it is perplexing.
Imagine a day at the Coliseum during a Gladiator/Wild Beast massacre with 50,000 spectators drinking wine, eating whole grain bread smothered in Garum, a hunk of cheese, and some kind of carcass from the stadium vendors; all of which were very likely bacterial-infested. I would guess they might want to visit the facilities on occasion. Now, I could probably live with the idea of sharing a booth with another person, given the culture of the time. But 50,000? I’m glad to have been born a Boomer.
Bake My Fish