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?!

Further Activities

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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Comments 6 comments

AEvans profile image

AEvans 7 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

Quite enlightening and it is definitely a must share. As it gives knowledge with a humorous twist. :) I couldn't imagine having my entire family being in the bathroom at the same time, talk about no privacy. I believe in those days they were much more open-minded. :)


Wilma Proops profile image

Wilma Proops 7 years ago from London, Liverpool, Paris, New York and Tenerife Author

Thanks for your comment. I couldn't imagine it either - I think if children are thinking the same (when you share this history with them) they have learnt something they'll never forget. Of course the best case scenario would be that this bit of fun develops a real interest in history and its countless lessons. Thanks again.


Benson Yeung profile image

Benson Yeung 7 years ago from Hong Kong

simply charming


Wilma Proops profile image

Wilma Proops 7 years ago from London, Liverpool, Paris, New York and Tenerife Author

Thanks Benson and thanks for your mail. Given your expertise I would appreciate any comments on the Viking Poo article I also published today. Thanks again


AEvans profile image

AEvans 7 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

My children love fun and tonight were are beginning history 101 , I can only imagine the teachers comments this week as my son is quite expressive so this should be interesting however it is going to be fun.:)


Wilma Proops profile image

Wilma Proops 7 years ago from London, Liverpool, Paris, New York and Tenerife Author

Exactly the result I was aiming for! -I hope you've seen my hub about the Viking Poo and I've others about king Henry VIII and Medieval toilet goers ready to publish. Thanks for your comment, do update with your son's progress.

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