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About the Book

Beyond the Book

312 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 36 drawings, 64 halftones, notes, bibl., index

Studies in the History of Greece and Rome

ISBN  978-1-4696-2128-9
Published: April 2015

The Archaeology of Sanitation in Roman Italy

Toilets, Sewers, and Water Systems

By Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow

The Romans developed sophisticated methods for managing hygiene, including aqueducts for moving water from one place to another, sewers for removing used water from baths and runoff from walkways and roads, and public and private latrines. Through the archeological record, graffiti, sanitation-related paintings, and literature, Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow explores this little-known world of bathrooms and sewers, offering unique insights into Roman sanitation, engineering, urban planning and development, hygiene, and public health. Focusing on the cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Ostia, and Rome, Koloski-Ostrow’s work challenges common perceptions of Romans' social customs, beliefs about health, tolerance for filth in their cities, and attitudes toward privacy. In charting the complex history of sanitary customs from the late republic to the early empire, Koloski-Ostrow reveals the origins of waste removal technologies and their implications for urban health, past and present.

About the Author

Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow is professor and chair of Classical Studies at Brandeis University and affiliate faculty in Anthropology, Fine Arts, Italian Studies, and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.


“Invaluable. . . . A thoughtful investigation of an essential aspect of Roman civilization. Highly recommended.”
--Library Journal

“Like all the best ancient history, [this book] provides rigorous engagement with our own assumptions about then and about now.”
--The Spectator

"[A]. . . passionate account of the toilets and sewers of Roman Italy."
--Times Literary Supplement

“If shelf space allows only one book on Roman toilets, this is it.”

“A spirited, insightful, and eagerly-awaited monograph. . . . Effectively makes the case for an interdisciplinary approach to toilets and sanitation in any time period.”
--Classical Journal

"[Professor Koloski-Ostrow’s] book is a dense scholarly examination of sanitation in Ancient Rome, but is also chalked full of thought-provoking insights and insightful research about everyday life’s most private behavior."
--United Nations of Roma Victrix

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