(Mirror Daily, United States) – It seems that the Roman famed sanitation bred diseases and parasites, and was not much better than the systems of barbarians they so furiously despised. The Roman Empire is famous for its innovation, including the introduction of paved paths, clean water, and excellent sanitation.
However, it appears one of them was not as efficient as previously believed. According to lead author of the study, Piers Mitchell from the University of Cambridge, those public baths did little but make Romans smell better. As far as their health was concerned though, it didn’t help with much. In fact, most Roman baths turned into a cesspool of bacteria and parasites.
Mitchell, a lecturer of biological anthropology and ancient disease expert, studied the remains within latrine soil, fossilized excrements, and burial dirt of decomposed Romans. He also analyzed Ancient Rome’s ectoparasites, which means fleas, lice, and bed bugs, to properly asses their sanitation.
Ancient Rome introduced advanced sanitation technologies around 2,000 years ago, which included heated public baths, multi-seat latrines, sewage systems, and aqueducts to bring clean drinking water for the population. In fact, the Romans even had laws passed that would have human waste transported outside of their city for the purpose of health. One would expect that with such innovative measures that their health would be excellent. Or at least, it would be better than most.
It wasn’t. According to Mitchell, their sanitation system made them just as disease-riddled as the rest of the population during that time. This included even Vikings, who did not have such advanced technology, such as heated baths and sewage systems. In fact, there was no record of parasites, such as roundworms, tapeworms, or whipworms declining in the Roman Empire. They were just as affected by infections and fleas as the rest of the world.
In some cases, it was even worse.
Mitchell found archaeological evidence and fecal samples from all across the Roman world, finding that their rate of disease was not as well as believed before. This was likely due to their advanced systems themselves, and their preference for a certain seasoning called ‘garum’ made from fermented raw fish.
The heated baths boasted frequent changing of their water, but it appears that some only did so intermittently. That allowed for bacteria to fester, and people were bathing in egg parasites and disease. The raw fish encouraged the spreading of tape worms and fatal anemia that was found in 80% of child skeletons uncovered.
Even their disposal of human waste outside of the city was not so efficient. In fact, farmers often took the parasite-filled excrements and used them for fertilization of their fields. While it certainly worked, it also further encouraged the spreading of the disease.
It seems that the advanced sanitation systems the Romans are famous for were not healthier than anything else. In fact, they were not better than those in medieval times, when people didn’t even bathe frequently.
Image source: italysbestrome.com