Death and Toilets: The Only Certainties.


Kate Shrewsday

The Romans were good at certainties. They were excellent, as you will all know, at Death. They did death spectacularly. And they were really great at Taxes, too. For everyone else, not themselves, obviously.

But they were also super-efficient at that third certainty, which no-one likes to mention.

Toilets. Latrines, dunnies, bogs, privies, lavs, potties, crappers, commodes. Thrones.

The best-preserved latrine from Roman Britain is, as I write, shrouded in dark and wet, much as it was two thousand years ago. These days, however, it does not have a roof, and local folks prefer to use the water closets which have been gracing Northumberland for the last couple of centuries or so.

It is one of the most prominent features of Houseteads, the remains of a Roman fort perching high up in the green wastes of English borderland on Hadrian’s Wall. It was built in 124AD.

Despite the ravages of…

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