Poop Happened, A History of the World from the Bottom UP
by Sarah Albee
I have the sense of humor of a nine-year old boy. I like potty humor. Maybe it’s because I raised six boys and had a herd of them in and out of my house, but there it is folks, the stinky truth. So when I was doing research at my local library and came across this book, I had to check it out.
As an armchair historian and a lover of historical romances, I love to imagine different time periods and the rugged, handsome men who swept the lovely ladies into their arms and rode off with them into the sunset. This book definitely gave me a different perspective of that time period.
Imagine a rebellion in Bohemia where an angry mob of Protestant rebels tossed several ministers from the castle window, about fifty feet off the ground. It’s okay, miracle of miracles, they didn’t die. No, they landed in a big pile of poop. How big and smelly a pile of HUMAN waste had to be outside this tower window to ensure these people didn’t die? Yuck!
The Greeks and Romans had great sewers and much cleanliness compared to their European counterparts. They had water pipes made of lead that came into the houses of the rich, local bathhouse and public toilets. Toileting was a social affair, you and your buddies could sit and you-know, talk and laugh, oh and share a cleansing sponge. Thank God for private stalls and toilet paper!
The Romans even had a goddess of sewers and a god of dung. Okay, those of you who write romantic fantasy ever thought of writing the story of Venus Cloacina and Stercutius?
Jobs I would not wish to have, that of tanner, fuller or the gongfermor. Let’s just say they had a stinky job.
I wouldn’t want to be a Knight’s Squire either, his job was to clean the knight’s armor. I love the idea of knights and ladies, the jousting and pageantry but it took several hours to get a knight into his armor. I don’t know about you, but I always have to go to the bathroom before I leave the house. How did the knights go to the bathroom after putting on their suits? Yep, you guessed it, they just went inside the suit. Gross. It kind of takes the romance out of it doesn’t it? Yeah, and guess whose job it was to clean the armor? Yes, that poor squire.
Oh, and you’ve heard of the Inquisition? Did you know that if you were too clean, you could be killed as a heretic, Jew or Muslim? Yeah, Christians didn’t bathe but once a year or so. Jewish and Muslim faith believed in cleanliness, so where did the old adage “cleanliness is next to godliness” come from? It must not have been the Christians.
Before toilet paper the rich used wool or hemp, maybe even scraps of silk. The poor used grass, stone, mussel shells or water. Feathers were even used but they lacked substance so they’d leave the birds neck attached so you could get a good handle on things. Did I mention I’m very thankful for toilet paper?
In 1516, Leonardo da Vinci invented a toilet that flushed for the French king Francois I. Unfortunately, it was never built as DaVinci died.
If you want to know the real reason women carried parasols and men walked on the outside towards the street when escorting a lady, or where the first platform shoes came from and why, or why all of our ancestors where probably drunks, you need to read this fun and enlightening history of world’s poop.