Yes, there were vomitoriums in ancient Rome, but they were not what you think they are. A vomitorium was a wide passage in a theater that leads to and from a seating area. The people could thus issue forth quickly and en masse. Most people believe that vomitoria were special rooms or buildings for hedonistic Romans to throw up in so they could make room to eat more food. As it turns out, most Romans were no fonder of throwing up than most people are today.
Now that the air is clear, it must be noted that not all Romans were averse to what we call today binge and purge eating, the experience was just not widespread enough to have entire rooms devoted to it.
One of the reasons for the belief in widespread vomiting in ancient Rome is because one of the most famous Romans of all time, Julius Caesar, expressed that he often desired to throw up after dinner. In some Roman literature, passages can be found that one or more slaves were specifically assigned to the task of cleaning up vomit at large banquets, but it is unclear as to whether this was from eating or from drinking too much wine.
Another reason for the belief in rooms set aside for vomiting is because the word vomitorium is often used incorrectly, even in reference books of authority. In 1923, the Oxford Dictionary cited an example where the term was used incorrectly. Another book on history published in 1961 suggested that the vomitoria in Roman theaters were named after vomitoria used to throw up, which is patently false.
A true vomitorium in a theater was designed to get the most people into and out of the theater as quickly as possible. It is said that the vomitoria at the Colosseum could be used to fill the 50,000-seat stadium in less than 15 minutes.
Posted 3041 day ago