The ultimate in luxury - a flushing toilet

View of the latrine at Chedworth Roman Villa

The Roman latrine fascinates me. I've visited lots of them at Roman military buildings and towns, where they served hundreds of people, but they are rare in villas.

A private latrine could be considered an ultimate luxury. They collected something that was valuable and simply flushed it away as if it was nothing.

Wasteful waste

Human waste was useful - most simple toilets were built over cesspits, and the content removed by slaves or servants for fertiliser. Large pottery jars were used to collect urine. This was used in laundries and leather production.

Experience the luxury of flushing toilets
View of the latrine at Chedworth Roman Villa
Experience the luxury of flushing toilets

A communal loo

Roman flushing toilets are very identifiable in their layout even when you just have a few stones left in the ground. I can imagine the occupants sitting on a long wooden bench with a number of holes cut through it. There is no flow of water, running underneath the seats, washing away the waste into a sewer. There are no cubicles; this is a shared experience.

Imagine taking part in this shared experience
Imagine taking part in this shared experience
Imagine taking part in this shared experience

May I borrow that moss stick?

Whilst toilet paper isn't on hand, moss or sponges on a stick might be available, for sharing. Some more prepared guests may have brought their own sponge with them.

Learn all about Roman toilet paper
Learn all about Roman toilet paper
Learn all about Roman toilet paper

Which way to the toilet? Oh really?

There are some questions about the toilet at Chedworth, which still make us scratch our heads. If it was such a luxury offering, why is it next to the kitchen, which would have been in the servants' area of the villa? As far as we can tell the only door into the toilet was via the kitchen. It is hard to imagine esteemed guests pushing their way through the hustle and bustle of the kitchen to use the facilities. This is one of the reasons archaeology is so fascinating for me, it raises as many questions as it answers.

The hustle and bustle of a Roman kitchen
The hustle and bustle of a Roman kitchen
The hustle and bustle of a Roman kitchen