Weird Histories 5: The Biggest Public Toilet in History... Probably
Was this the Biggest Public Toilet Ever?
About this Weird Histories series of articles
This series is about the history of toilets and related by-products. It was written for parent to share with their children, have fun and educate them (without them knowing it) at the same time.
Toilets Then and Now
Nowadays, what with the big public toilets in airports and massive hotels and guest venues, you might think we have the biggest public toilets in history and you’d be right, but only partly right. It really depends on what your definition of “public toilets” is. Your definition is probably governed by the way we think nowadays. You think of a public toilet as a row of private, individual cubicles each containing its own toilet for you to use behind closed doors.
Oh how times have changed!
The Roman definition of a public toilet was similar to yours but without the separate cubicles. The Romans, being more social than us, sat down to go to the toilet in groups. These groups weren’t always small either.
So how Big was the Biggest Public Toilet?
According to the extensive research undertaken to write this learned article, the biggest public toilet still surviving is to be found in Libya. This public facility seated 50 along four walls of a rectangular room in Emperor Hadrian’s Baths. There was plenty of room for standing and waiting – so you could have taken your family and friends in with you and there would have been no need to pause your conversation. How weird is that?!
It is a good idea to wind children up by telling them that you are going to install a Roman toilet so you can all sit down as a family – with any friends or passing strangers – to toilet together.
Older children might like to research how money was made by the owners of Roman Public toilets. They'll find that an entrance fee was charged and that the collected urine was sold to leather tanneries.
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