Poo-Pee Politics

medieval-urinal-fountainSo, you walk into a public bathroom and choose your urinal.

No need to worry about who’ll be peeking at your pee-pee.

Everyone will.


Because there are no divisions between urinals.

In fact, there are no urinals.

Because you are an ancient Roman. And there are important political matters to discuss, so you pee sitting down.

Although ancient Rome had the most effective sewage system of the middle ages, common public bathrooms consisted of corner structures built over buckets in which to poo-pee.

These for the people’ outhouses stank and were filled with flies but, being surrounded by open air, were much better than indoor bathrooms – which consisted of funky buckets in the corners of small rooms.

Buckets of waste were quite the commodity for ‘fullers‘ – the equivalent of our modern day dry cleaners and tailors – who purchased urine to cleanse wool, and were taxed by the Roman government for the privilege.



Poo-pee tax?



Apparently, governmentin any century can find ways to bleed citizens – ways that would never occur to non-vultures.

Initially, fullers placed large jugs in front of their stores. People would poo-pee in them, and at the end of the day, the fullers would bring the smelly, slopping jugs inside. In this way, they had all the urine they needed to clean wool, tan leather, and even brush their teeth (ammonia is a natural whitener, and urine was thought to prevent toothaches).

I know.

Choke it back.

Once emperor Nero got wind of how valuable urine was to fullers, he imposed a tax on it. In the middle ages, even poo-pee was political.

Which is really not so medieval.

irs-government-taxesAncient Rome had almost 150 public bathrooms. Some – for officials and other wealthy men – were even constructed within forums from which they could watch citizens go by as they sat emptying their privileged bladders and bowels.

Of course, this meant passing pedestrians could look at them, too. But personal privacy back then wasn’t the big deal it is today. Moreover, Roman men wore long tunics with nothing underneath, so they could lift the back, sit down, and have the front portion of the tunic cover the danglies.

These ‘upscale’ public bathrooms featured marble toilets to cool monied bottoms on hot Mediterranean days. In the winter, slaves warmed the marble seats before wealthy masters sat.

The seats – holes through which to poo-pee – were constructed above a trough of running water in rows facing one another to facilitate conversation while relieving themselves.

ancient-roman-toiletsIt was in these cushy public bathrooms, bowel stench hanging thick in the air, that officials and other wealthy men congregated to discuss politics, plan government and hash out business from both ends.

Such is the nature of politics.

And so you sit in your white toga, contemplating the future of your great nation.

How shall we win the next war? Raise current taxes? Keep citizens ignorant about our true motives?

Your business done, you lean forward to reach for the nearest sponge-stick, floating before you in a trough of murky water. Poking the long, sponge-tipped stick as far back as you can reach through the hole in the front of your marble toilet seat, you vigorously rub away the visible brown corruption of your political arse


You extract the stick, and deposit it once more into the murky trough, so that it may soak ‘clean’ for use between the next corrupt pair of political cheeks

Wealthy ancient Romans used sponge-sticks to wipe their privileged crud.


These sticks floated in channels of water between the rows of toilets so that go-ers could reach them without having to rise from their marble thrones.

Vinegar was used to disinfect the ‘spongia’ for re-use.


Good Lord.

I wonder which was dirtier…their politics or their sponge-sticks?


Read all of Sylver’s Medieval Monday Poo-Pee Posts!


Medieval Monday

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