10 Facts About Ancient Rome You’re Unlikely to Learn in a History Class
When you think of Ancient Rome, the first thing that comes to mind may be the pristine togas and the Colosseum overflowing with fight fans. That may be thanks to movies and series inspired by that era. But beyond the Roman Empire’s glory, there were peculiar customs that screenwriters preferred to skip over.
Bright Side wants to tell you some facts about Ancient Rome that we’re sure you weren’t taught in school.
1. Men were prohibited from wearing pants.
While today pants are a must-have in everyone’s closet, for the ancient Romans wearing them was something worthy of a barbarian or a savage, while “civilized” men wore traditional shorts and tunics. Even the emperors Honorius and Arcadius of the Western and Eastern Roman Empire officially banned them in the late 4th century. The prohibition read, “Within the venerable City, no one should be allowed to appropriate the wearing of boots or pants.”
2. The sweat of the gladiators was sold outside the Colosseum.
You could say that this was a somewhat strange souvenir. Gladiators used to become a celebrity among the lower class and were very popular with women, who would sometimes mix the sweat of these fighters with their cosmetics. To do this, the dirt was scraped off the fighter’s skin with a metal blade called strigil and then stored in vials that were sold outside the gladiatorial games.
3. Washing clothes with urine.
Ammonia is one of the best-known substances to clean. This compound can be found in urine. Therefore, it is unsurprising that the ancient Romans used it to keep clothes clean. They used a mixture of water and urine. At the time, it was actually common to see urine containers in the streets, which, once filled, were taken to the fullonicas, stores dedicated to laundry and dry cleaning.
4. They drank copper as a contraceptive method.
Not all Romans wanted to have large families; therefore, some women drank copper salt dissolved in water to avoid pregnancy. The belief was that this drink would prevent conception for a whole year, but, in reality, this was an ineffective and dangerous method.
5. They used to dye their hair with strange mixtures.
The most popular hair colors were blond, black, and red. They still used common ingredients, such as henna, but they also used some strange components. For example, to dye dark-colored hair, they used a mixture of leeches and vinegar that they left to ferment for two months before using.
But if they wanted to lighten their hair, they’d use pigeon dung. Although some rich people, such as the emperor Commodus, were more ostentatious and powdered their hair with gold dust.
6. Women also fought as gladiators.
In movies you often see male gladiators fighting bravely against each other. But in the first century B.C. it was common to see women fighting as gladiators until Emperor Septimius Severus forbade their participation.
7. They bathed with oil.
Using a strigil, the ancient Romans removed dirt from their body. Unlike soap, which can be rinsed off, oil had to be scraped off with this tool.
8. The unibrow was a trait highly valued by women.
Long before Frida Kahlo popularized the unibrow, in ancient Rome, it was already considered a desirable attribute, as it was believed to be possessed by the most intelligent and coveted women. Such was their appreciation for the unibrow; those who did not have it naturally had it made up with black paint.
9. In order to get married, they had to “kidnap” the bride.
Most Roman weddings were held in June in honor of Juno, the ancient goddess of childbirth and marriage. The tradition was that the groom had to pretend to snatch the bride from her mother’s arms so that the guardian deities of the home would believe that the bride was not leaving them willingly.
As soon as the couple entered the groom’s house, they were considered married. But before that, for the attendants to visualize the consummation of the marriage, the groom would break a loaf of bread over the bride’s head.
10. They believed that wild boar excrement was medicinal.
The charioteers, i.e., the people who drove the horse-drawn vehicle in chariot races, used a peculiar ointment. They used the excrement of wild boars to treat wounds and bruises, as they believed it had magical healing properties.
Some let it dry to consume it as a powder in their drinks since it was said that this way, they cured breaks and sprains. According to the belief, the feces were more effective if boiled with vinegar.
If you could travel back in time, what era would you go to? What would you most like to learn about?