For more about Martial, see “Past Perfect: In the Here and Now,” AO 05:05.



In addition to Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow, I would like to thank Philip J. King, Gregory Nagy, Kathleen M. Coleman, A. Trevor Hodge and Esther Dvorjetski for their assistance on this article. Any errors, of course, are mine.


A. Trevor Hodge, Roman Aqueducts and Water Supply (London: Duckworth, 1992), p. 271.


Fritz Kretzschmer, La technique romaine (Brussels, 1966), cited in Hodge, Aqueducts, p. 454, n. 77. Citing Roto-Rooter’s History of Plumbing, Dan Berger, the administrator of the MadSci Network (a collection of scientists of various disciplines answering questions, at, says that toilet paper as we know it was not invented until about 1880. Before that, paper would have been too expensive for this purpose. Likewise cloth, although it could be washed and reused. Leaves were largely unavailable in urban areas. According to Berger, for most of human history “the preferred tool” was the left hand, presumably with water.


Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow, “Finding Social Meaning in the Public Latrines of Pompeii,” in Nathalie de Haan and Gemma C.M. Jansen, eds., Cura Aquarum in Campania (Leiden: Stichting Babesch, 1996), p. 81.


Koloski-Ostrow, “Cacator cave malum: the subject and object of Roman public latrines in Italy during the first centuries B.C. and A.D.” in Gemma C.M. Jansen, ed., Cura Aquarum in Sicilia (Leiden: Stichting Babesch, 2000), p. 291.


Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Moral Epistles, 2.70.20, Loeb Classical Library (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1920), pp. 67–69.


Koloski-Ostrow, “Latrines of Pompeii,” p. 81 and following.


Marcus Valerius Martial, Epigrams,, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1961), p. 351.


Jerome Carcopino, Daily Life in Ancient Rome (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1992), p. 41.