Urine has enjoyed an impressive range of practical and medical uses for much of history. Urine has, in fact, had an impressive range of practical uses for much of history. A key area was medicine, But ancient Romans were also economical about their use of waste products—specifically, their own waste. In Roman Mythology, Cloaca Maxima is the goddess of the sewer system. Following are some of the ways in which Romans used human urine and feces in daily life.
1. Whitening teeth
When left out too long, urine decomposes into ammonia, which is a great cleaning product that takes out stains easily.
2. Growing Juicy Fruits
Urine also contains nitrogen and phosphorous, which are very useful for growing plants. The Roman author Columella wrote that old human urine was particularly useful for growing pomegranates, making them juicier and tastier.
3. Making their Togas bright and colorful
The ammonia in urine was used to clean togas in a place called a fulleary. The first stage of cleaning involved men jumping up and down on the togas in large vats with urine inside, like living washing machine agitators, while the second stage often included dirt or ash. Both helped dissolve grease that accumulated on the togas and made them bright again.
4. Cure diseased animals
Roman author Columella suggested that sheep with bile issues were given human urine to drink, while those with lung issues were given urine through the nose. Sick bees could also be given human urine, and bird flu was cured by putting tepid urine on their beaks.
The Romans frequently employed urine, dog feces, and sometimes human feces in tanning for making leather. A good long soak in urine would help remove hair from the pelt, and then feces were ground into it, sometimes for hours at a time. The enzymes made by the bacteria in the feces softened the hide, making it more supple.
6. Fertilizing Fields
Also known as night soil. Romans used human feces and urine in their gardens as the organic portion of the poo and the nitrates, phosphorous, and potassium of the urine nourished plants.
Although human waste was used in a wide variety of ways in ancient Rome, it’s not clear exactly how it was gathered.