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10 Truly Disgusting Facts About Ancient Roman Life

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Sanitation in today’s society is extremely important. Hygiene is one of the first things that the opposite sex notices. An unhygienic person—no matter the looks—will never garner any attention whereas someone who is clean and smells good is going to exude much more charm and attractiveness. With the onslaught of hand sanitizers and washing your hands to the tune of ‘Happy Birthday’, we keep ourselves clean not merely for other people but also for our bodies and our immune systems.

So it’s pretty shocking when we look at Ancient Rome and realize all the disgusting things that they used to do.

Here is a list of 10 truly disgusting facts about Ancient Roman life.

1. Some UFC fighters today (Lyoto Machida to name just one) believe that drinking one’s own urine can boost their immune system and help them fend off bacteria, viruses and diseases.

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2. But in ancient Rome, pee was such a huge commodity that the government had to issue special taxes to control the sale of urine!

efez18National Geographic

3. Some people had to collect urine, either going door to door asking for people’s assistance, or visiting the public urinal. But what’s even more disgusting is that Romans used to use urine to clean clothes! Yes, they would take clothes and soak them into a tub full of urine and have someone stomp all over them.

main-qimg-a5cc85537ca81856d27d47deee3585c0Jeremy Hon

4. And that’s not even the worst part, urine was used as mouthwash back then! In order to keep your teeth pearly white, people would clean their teeth using urine. I wonder if it was their own?

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5. Since we mentioned public urinals in the first page, let’s stick with this topic. Urinals during ancient Rome were rarely ever cleaned and they were filled with parasites that would give you a sting if you weren’t paying attention.

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6. Lacking the invention of toilet paper, they used a sponge. Sorry, the correct term is they SHARED a sponge on a stick. Yes, whoever used that public urinal would use a shared sponge to clean themselves with afterwards.

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7. But the shared sponge isn’t even the worst part about using a public urinal in ancient Rome, it was the fact that you could literally die from using one. Those urinals have the potential to explode.

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8. Yes, they could explode due to the methane buildup since they were never cleaned. Romans used to pray to Fortuna, the goddess of luck, before entering. And archaeologists also found inscriptions for spells meant to ward off demons engraved inside the urinals.

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9. Historians noted that when gladiators died, spectators would rush to gather their blood because they thought that gladiator blood had medicinal properties.

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10. Some would even pull out a gladiator’s liver and eat it raw! Later on when gladiator combats were banned, spectators began drinking the blood of deceased prisoners.

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11. Before soap was a common and daily commodity, people used to clean themselves with a strigil. This is a tool used to scrape dead skin cells off the body. Normally these dead skin cells are thrown away because, well, because that’s just nasty if not!

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12. But gladiators would collect these dead skin cells along with their sweat and it would be turned into a facial cream for women. Its properties were meant to be aphrodisiac to make women more appealing to men.

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13. When Pompeii was first discovered, everything was left pristine and preserved due to a volcanic eruption. But what historians and archaeologists saw could not be mistaken. It was erotic artwork.

pompeii-day-trip-from-rome-in-rome-42924Lonely Planet

14. So raunchy that it had to be kept in a hidden room for hundreds of years. Since the town was filled with prostitutes, penises engraved on the street floors were designed to direct the person to the nearest brothel.

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15. Ancient Rome and its fondness for the male genitalia is pretty well documented. Young boys would wear necklaces with a copper penis in order to protect them from harm.

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16. Also, dangerous places such as off-balanced bridges and sharp curves usually had a penis engraved in them as a sign of good luck.

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17. In a funny but potentially deadly incident, Roman soldiers were ordered to stand outside Jerusalem to ensure that there was peace and no riots. But one soldier was depicted as having ‘lifted up the back of his garments, turned his face away, and with his bottom to them..released at them a foul-smelling sound where they were offering sacrifice.’

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18. The Jews were obviously furious and this eventually evolved into a riot they were supposed to prevent.

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19. Binge-eating is one thing, but binge-eating in ancient Rome was something totally different. The wealthy who could afford all that food would eat till they had to throw up, vomit, and then continue eating. Whilst some of the ‘civilized’ would throw up in bowls around the banquet table, others would just vomit on the floor and then keep on going. I guess that’s why gluttony is a vice.

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20. In ancient Rome, they used goat dung as a form of medicine. For wounds, or scratches, dried goat feces would be used to coat the surface of the wound. Although dried goat feces were recommended, fresh ones could also be effective in ‘times of emergency.’ What’s even more remarkable is that the lack of coffee was substituted with…GOAT DUNG! Charioteers would grind it up and mix it with vinegar or another drink if they needed a quick energy boost.

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