On In History & Culture

10 Facts About The Ancient Romans You Probably Didn't Know

Ancient Romans have always been a subject of interest for the ones pretty much into History and Roman culture. Their civilization came up with a lot of innovative as well as weird inventions and traditions. We bring to you a list of ten interesting and less-known facts of the Ancient Romans. Enjoy reading them!

Let's see how much you know about them.

#1) Gladiator Blood: The tradition of drinking a Gladiator’s warm blood

The though considered sound in medical field, ancient Romans were utterly insane too at times. To prove the point, Romans considered Gladiator’s blood as a medicine to cure epilepsy. The belief was so strong that as soon as a Gladiator was killed in a combat and his body removed from the arena, the street vendors sold his warm blood to the crowd. Later in 400 A.D., when the gladiatorial combat was outlawed by the Government, people switched to the blood of executed criminals for curing the same disease.

#2) Phalluses: Men wore Phalluses as lucky charms

Even the most civilized and powerful Romans couldn't escape the fear of superstitions. They used to consider many a things as their lucky charms; one of them was wearing a phallus- a Latin lucky charm for penis erection, male fertility and male orgasm. There are evidences that phallic symbolism was a basic and trusted part of ancient Romans’ life. They hung them in their doorways, made wind chimes to ward off evil spirits and even wore them as necklaces. The phallus wind chimes were sometimes bejeweled with the wings of a bird, feet of a lion, and the head of, well, a penis. If I do that today, I’d rather be called a sex offender!

#3) Urine tax: Pecunia non olet

Trust me, they were weird! How would you feel like collecting your pee-pee in a pot, store them in cesspools and then someone would buy it to bleach your clothes in a laundry? Told you Romans were weird! The first century Roman emperor Vespasian enacted ‘Urine Tax’. The buyers of urine collected in cesspools had to pay tax in order to use the urine for tanning leather and bleaching (as urine is a source of Ammonia, the main ingredient of bleaching agents) woollen togas.

#4) Shopping malls: The Romans were the first to start shopping malls.

The weekend shopping wouldn't have been as awesome as it’s today if the Romans hadn't come up with the idea of a constructing massive buildings with numerous shops. The Trajan’s market located in Rome, Italy is probably one of the world’s first examples of shopping malls. Moreover, the Roman building faced many hurricanes and extreme weather and is still standing after 2000 years of its construction, mocking the high-tech buildings of the 21st century. The two-story building is large enough to accommodate about 150 shops. The reason for the building standing strong even to this date is because the Romans used concrete ( lime mixed in the soil and gravel) to construct the city-centered shopping mall. There was delicate marble flooring in the mall, including a library. Thank you, Rome!

#5) Rules on Marital sex: Don't let your husband see you naked.

In the opinion of the great French scholar Paul Veyne, the ancient Romans were very self-conscious when it came to sex. There were strict limits which sometimes went way too far. For example: A modest Roman wife was expected not to let her husband see her naked body again after the first night of their wedding. Seriously?!

#6) Sinister: Left-handed people were considered Sinisters

Left-handed people in ancient Rome were considered unlucky and untrustworthy. To make it weirder, they were also referred to as homosexuals by early Europeans. The word sinister actually originates from the original Latin meaning for ‘left’. With time, the negativity towards the left-handed turned into calling them evil. Though for a change, left-handed gladiators were treated as an asset- as left-handed people had different fighting style and that made the combats more interesting.

#7) Crucifixion: The citizens weren’t crucifixed

Crucifixion was a common punishment in the days of ancient Romans for two major reasons: committing a treason or being from another city. These were the only two offences enough for the Romans to crucify anyone. If a Roman citizen committed a crime though, no matter how grave it was, they were mostly exiled or fined. On the other hand, if a non-citizen was caught even in a petty criminal act, they were crucified in more than 90 percent of the cases.

#8) Toilets: They had flushing toilets

The pioneers of the sewer system, the ancient Romans were also among the first people to use flush-installed toilets. Their toilets used underground flowing water to wash away the human waste. To add to the innovation, they had modern conveniences like indoor plumbing in their toilets. The toilets had the facility of hot and cold water on demand of the rich people, who were the only ones allowed in the luxury toilets back then.

#9) UFOs: Romans have the record of witnessing some of the first UFOs

It was Rome where one of the first UFOs of history were recorded. A written account of 218 B.C. reports of a fleet of flickering ships noticed floating in the sky of Rome. Also, a report of A.D. 150 described “a beast like a piece of pottery about one hundred feet in size, multi-colored on top and shooting out fiery rays, landed in a dust cloud.” seen in the outskirts of Rome city. Both of these accounts were mentioned in NASA’s publication ‘Unidentified Flying Objects in Classical Antiquity’.

#10) Bandages: They used Spiderweb Bandages

Well, the Romans weren't always weird. In fact, they were going head-to-head with the Greeks in the field of modern medicine. An example of their incredible innovation was the bandages they created by using a mixture of honey, cobwebs and vinegar. Spider silk possesses antibacterial properties to protect wounds from further damaging and are stronger than steel in terms of weight and tensile strength. The book ‘Military Medicine: From Ancient Times to the 21st Century’ discusses how the Roman army medics used the spider-web bandages proficiently. Geniuses they were!