The Archaeology of Sanitation in Roman Italy

The Archaeology of Sanitation in Roman Italy: Toilets, Sewers, and Water Systems

ANN OLGA KOLOSKI-OSTROW
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 312
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5149/9781469621296_koloski-ostrow
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  • Book Info
    The Archaeology of Sanitation in Roman Italy
    Book Description:

    The Romans developed sophisticated methods for managing hygiene, including aqueducts for moving water from one place to another, sewers for removing used water from baths and runoff from walkways and roads, and public and private latrines. Through the archeological record, graffiti, sanitation-related paintings, and literature, Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow explores this little-known world of bathrooms and sewers, offering unique insights into Roman sanitation, engineering, urban planning and development, hygiene, and public health. Focusing on the cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Ostia, and Rome, Koloski-Ostrow's work challenges common perceptions of Romans' social customs, beliefs about health, tolerance for filth in their cities, and attitudes toward privacy. In charting the complex history of sanitary customs from the late republic to the early empire, Koloski-Ostrow reveals the origins of waste removal technologies and their implications for urban health, past and present.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-2326-9
    Subjects: History, Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-ix)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. x-xiv)
  4. PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xv-xxvi)
  5. {1} AN INTRODUCTION TO SANITATION IN ROMAN ITALY AND URBAN CASE STUDIES OF THE BEST-PRESERVED PUBLIC LATRINES
    (pp. 1-37)

    Since the early 1990s I have given short papers at the annual meetings of the Archaeological Institute of America on a variety of topics related to Roman toilets. I have treated toilets as architectural representations of Romanization, as features in bath buildings whose hydrological design technology is closely tied to the baths in which they sit, as indicators of Roman sanitary conditions in Pompeii and Herculaneum, and as sources for graffiti on bodily evacuation related to health. At every one of these conferences, my talks have been scheduled within general sessions on Roman baths. The apparent logic in the scheduled...

  6. {2} “BLACK HOLES” IN ANCIENT SPACE: EXPLORING HYGIENE AND SANITATION THROUGH CROSS-CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL THEORY
    (pp. 38-51)

    Roman toilets, sewers, and drains are important archaeological features that embody ideas relevant to Roman society about cleanliness, physical health, concepts of beauty, and even notions of privacy. If toilets are excavated properly, they can provide valuable data even about the diet and socioeconomic status of users, divisions between households where they are found, construction methods, and maintenance. While the understanding that outhouse archaeology is significant has made major strides in nineteenth-century American historical circles,¹ this perception has been slow to affect the archaeology of the Roman world. Part of the problem, of course, is that many Roman toilets and...

  7. {3} UNDERSTANDING ROMAN SANITATION FROM ARCHAEOLOGY: TOILETS, SEWERS, AND WATER SYSTEMS
    (pp. 52-83)

    Since public latrines are most frequently, although not exclusively, found in the context of public baths dating from the first century B.C. to the second century A.D., much of the scholarship on the popularity of Roman baths and bathing customs also relates to public latrines and their use. Unfortunately, little direct archaeological or textual evidence exists to explain the proliferation of bath buildings and the bathing habit, especially in the first period of growth, from ca. 100 B.C. down to the age of Augustus. The reasons we can speculate for the growing numbers of baths, however, also make good sense...

  8. {4} PINPOINTING BEHAVIORS, ATTITUDES, AND IDEALS FOR ROMAN TOILETS
    (pp. 84-101)

    The myth in the modern classical civilization or Latin class is that multiseat Roman toilets were everywhere, as ubiquitous as Roman baths, available for everyone in ancient Roman cities at frequent intervals. In the scholarship on Roman architecture, urban planning, and ancient technology, however, one would be hard-pressed to find toilets discussed until very recently.¹ While toilets in themselves get a lot of credit from modern scholars for eliminating filth and even for improving health in Roman cities, such assessments are generally based only on assumptions rather than scientific inquiry. In this section, we visit Roman toilets with our eyes...

  9. {5} FINDING SOCIAL MEANING ABOUT SANITATION IN WRITTEN AND PAINTED SOURCES
    (pp. 102-122)

    The scope and intent of the present undertaking does not allow for a full analysis of nineteenth-century literature for the varied and colorful trope so often employed involving references to sewers, toilets, rivers, and their excretory contents. Still, I do not feel I can ignore this literature entirely in a study such as this, as the comparison can help us understand the literary and historical filters that were already in place in Roman literature.

    A few cogent samples can sufficiently demonstrate how the dank imagery of a city’s underbelly shaped both the plot and meaning of certain works of this...

  10. Figures
    (pp. 123-196)
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 197-248)
  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 249-270)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 271-286)