If you look back a few thousand years into history, you might stumble across a side of human life that has all but disappeared. The Roman empire was one of history’s most enduring and across the world, their influence can still be felt. While we might have taken the Roman’s road and architectural systems up with gusto, however, there are other areas of their lives that seem simply too strange for us to stomach. Enter the vomitorium.
While pop culture facts light have you believe that the vomitorium was a place in which greedy Romans would go to make room in their overstuffed bellies to eat more, the real history is a lot more practical than you would think. In fact, the vomitorium was a name given to the exits and entrances to large stadiums. After huge gatherings of people, thousands of spectators would spew out of the exits, leading to the illusion of a mass exodus from a living being.
Just how did the reality of the situation get so twisted, then? It could be down to our favorite writers from the 19th and 20th centuries. With little factual information to hand, writers on the subject took their cue from the name and the images they had to hand. Less than favorable descriptions given to the Roman people described them as a gluttonous bunch, and one who were not above vomiting in order to stuff a little bit more in. With a lack of varied information to hand, writers did the natural thing and assumed the vomitorium was the place in which such purging would happen. Little did they know that it would grow into something so culturally referenced.
Big feasts were a big part of the Roman Empire but did they purge themselves to stuff more in? That’s open to debate. The exits and entrances to mass crowds, vomitoriums were in fact a whole lot more functional than we have given them credit for and were their real history to have endured, perhaps we might view the Roman people in an altogether different light.