By limbic_signal, Feb 27 2016 07:00AM
"Ancient Ruins Used as Public Baths" by Hubert Robert (1798)
Romanization could refer to lots of things – Romanization of the alphabet, for example. Public sanitation is another area of life transformed by the Romans. They availed sewer systems, aqueduct-delivered drinking water, public baths, and waste disposal systems. One of those, however, made this type of Romanization a questionable advance. If you're like me, you already know which one, because you wince at the mere mention of the word – public bath.
New archaeological research shows that intestinal parasites were pervasive in Roman society and actually increased during Roman times. Sure, ectoparasites – lice and fleas – were reduced due to regular bathing. But the internal critters, the ones that cause diarrhea, spread during this time. This is confusing, because clean drinking water and careful feces removal limit these problems. Those public baths though… .
First of all, they’re warm. Secondly, the water was infrequently refreshed, and yet frequently visited, which fermented a top layer of scum that bred parasites athletes at the Olympics (athletes breeding athletes, that is, not athletes breeding pathogens).
Another explanation was that the great system for removing feces added to the problem when the human solid waste was used as fertilizer in crops, without first being composted for months prior. This allows parasite eggs to die-out before being reborn in the plants people eat. Oops.
In the end, it seems that all these advances in public sanitation didn't have health-positive effects. “They would have smelled better,” one scientist remarks. But is that so? They’re bathing in the scum of a thousand dirty countrymen Their environment may have smelled better, with the shit no longer in the streets, but trading personal body odor for the concentrated conglomeration of the sebum of a whole population – Better? Or just different? Anyway, here’s the link: