You cannot deny the impact Ancient Rome had on science, philosophy, medicine, technology, and many other subjects. However, despite what can be seen as a highly advanced population, the fact of the matter is that some things in Ancient Rome remain a mystery and controversial. That includes some of the hygiene habits.
Let’s just remember that the Roman Empire was a force to be reckoned with. The Romans managed to conquer half of Europe, parts of Asia, and parts of Africa. And what is even more amazing is that they conquered the huge territory, and then unified it with law, architecture, art, and culture. Even today, there are remains of Roman architecture and culture.
On the other hand, a closer look on the daily life of the Romans leave us amazed and surprised. It is just impossible to explain how such advanced civilization had such poor habits. Their behavior was far from glamorous. Some of the things Ancient Romans did can easily be classified as “disgusting” today.
Urine for dental hygiene
For a moment, drinking urine does not look so horrible, right? You can Bear Grylls took some of the ideas for drinking his own urine from the Romans.
Back in the Roman Empire, urine had a wide variety of uses. For example, people used it for tanning leather and washing clothes. The Romans also used urine for fertilizing and growing fruits. But the most disgusting usage was for teeth whitening.
There were even special laws and taxes for trading with urine. It was a major trading good in Ancient Rome that people used to pee in pots. The collected pee was sold as an ingredient to businesses. Workshops, tanneries for example, had pots placed at the entrance.
As a mouthwash, Romans believed that urine keeps their teeth clean and white. And while the idea is legit, as urine’s benefits have now been scientifically proved, it is just disgusting. Just the thought of cleaning your mouth with urine is awful. Urine decomposes into ammonia, and we know ammonia is a great cleaning product. Nowadays, we use ammonia for removing stains. But back in Ancient Rome, people used human and animal urine to whiten their teeth.
One sponge to conquer all
Sponges are a personal hygiene item. But not in Ancient Roman times. The Roman toilets were a dangerous and a scary place.
Despite the wealth and gold, people in Ancient Rome didn’t have the luxury of toilet paper. So, they had to manage with what they had. One of the most common tools for wiping was a sponge, and they all used it.
The tool, called “xylospongium” is the ancient precursor of the modern toilet brush. The tool consisted of a wooden stick with a sponge fixed at one end. And there were only a few of them in public toilets. People shared them, and never cleaned after usage. It is no surprise bacteria and disease like cholera and typhoid were common in Ancient time.
Magic to get out of the toilet
Oddly enough, sharing a toilet brush was not the most surprising thing Romans did in toilets. The toilet was a scary, deadly, and terrifying place. So, Romans used magic to get out alive.
While public baths were a place for relaxation and enjoyment, toilets were the total opposite. Some of the toilets had more than 50 dark holes with no dividers between them. Dangers lurked in every corner. Rats crawled up the hole and could bite the person in the toilet.
Therefore, Romans had to rely on magic and superstition for toilet protection. Archeology has found and identified many magical spells that served to ward off demons in the toilets. And people even called on the gods for help, mainly on the goddess of luck, Fortuna. The image of the goddess guarded some of the toilets.