In ancient Rome, military toilets, (latrines) were essential structures designed to provide sanitation and waste disposal for the Roman soldiers stationed in military encampments and forts. These latrines were considered an essential part of the Roman army’s infrastructure to maintain hygiene and prevent the spread of diseases. They were positioned on the outer wall and drains from the rest of the fort would usually pass through the latrine at an incline so that the water washed through. Buckets of water and mosses were used so soldiers could clean themselves.
Here’s a description of a typical Roman toilet :
- Structure: Roman military latrines were usually simple, open-air structures constructed with wood or stone. They were strategically placed at a distance from the soldiers’ barracks to reduce odours and maintain cleanliness.
- Trenches: The primary feature of a Roman military latrine was a long, narrow trench dug into the ground. These trenches were typically about 1 to 2 meters wide and several meters long, depending on the number of soldiers they needed to accommodate.
- Seating: Above the trench, wooden or stone seats were placed for soldiers to sit on while using the latrine. These seats were usually arranged side-by-side along the length of the trench.
- Drainage: The trench was designed with a slight slope to ensure that waste flowed away from the seating area. At the end of the trench, there would be an outlet for waste disposal.
- Water supply: Roman engineers often constructed latrines near a water source, like a nearby river or stream, for cleaning purposes and to maintain hygiene.
- Cleaning: Latrines were maintained by cleaning staff, known as “strigiles,” who would regularly remove waste from the trench and clean the area with water and sponges.
An extensive excavation of Bearsden fort and bathhouse included work on the latrine with space for 9 people. In modern times latrines are a great source of information as scientists discover what foods the soldiers ate from the content of latrines.
- “A LONG LOVE AFFAIR” WITH BEARSDEN ROMAN FORT: THE STORY OF AN EXCAVATION – drawings of latrine
- Bearsden: A Roman Fort on the Antonine Wall | Digital Books (This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. (David Breeze, 2020)
- Toilet hygiene in the classical era Philippe Charlier, Luc Brun, Clarisse Prêtre, Isabelle Huynh-Charlier BMJ: British Medical Journal, Vol. 345, No. 7888 (22-29 December 2012), p. 41 (1 page)