Saturday, December 3, 2011

An intimate look at ancient Rome

When you visit sites of ancient Roman civilization, it's hard to know where to look first: Temples, markets, brothels and baths all draw the eye and the imagination. But if you really want to know what it was like to live in ancient Rome, you may want to consider the humble toilet.

On a recent trip to Italy, I went in search of ancient toilets at archaeological sites people usually visit for their temples, markets, brothels and baths. Apart from the fun factor -- and that factor is high when it comes to learning about the sponge-tipped sticks some Romans used as toilet paper -- toilets give a sense of ancient Roman daily life. From the lavish, marble-seated group toilet of Ostia Antica to the humble below-the-stairs john at Herculaneum, the places where Romans conducted their daily, er, business are worth a closer look.

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