Public and private toilets throughout city, nearly none had direct sewer connections.  Sloping floors allowed for refuse to be washed with water into the drain feeding into the street and communal cesspool. Not all residents had the  luxury of having a private toilet in their dwelling. Those who had toilets, had it situated in the kitchen as shared access to the water pipe. Residents who did not have the luxury of having a private toilet in their dwelling used pots and emptied their waste manually into the streets. (Koloski-Ostrow, 2015).

Downsloping walls of a toilet to direct waste toward drain. (Source:
Cross walks of stone blocks were strategically placed throughout the city.. (Source: CBC Docs)

The streets had a natural incline which acted as a drainage system allowing waste to flow down the streets towards outlets near the city gates. As anyone can imagine, crossing a street full of waste and debris is not ideal. Raised street curbs were utilized as the streets were routinely flushed with water to wash away the waste accumulation. Large elevated blocks were strategically placed at cross walks and were typically used when the streets were flushed. The blocks allowed people to cross the street without stepping into the waste water and the gaps between the blocks were sized to accommodate the height and width of wheel axles.  (Koloski-Ostrow, 2015)(Rose, 2014)

  1. CBC Docs. “New Things We’re Learning About Pompeii and Its People – The Nature of Things: Science, Wildlife and Technology.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 2017,
  2. Koloski-Ostrow, A. O. (2019, August 28). What toilets and sewers tell us about ancient Roman sanitation. Retrieved from
  3. Olsson, R 2015, ‘The water-supply system in Roman Pompeii’, Licentiate, Classical archaeology and ancient history. (
  4. Richter/GTRES, J., Paolo, Scala, & Brozzi/Fototeca, S. (2016, November 15). Aqueducts: Quenching Rome’s Thirst. Retrieved from
  5. Rose, Joan B., and Andreas Nikolaos Angelakis. Evolution of Sanitation and Wastewater Technologies through the Centuries. IWA Publishing, 2014.
  6. Strickland, M. (2010). Roman Building Materials, Construction Methods, and Architecture: The Identity of an Empire. TigerPrints / Clemson University. (
  7. Wilkinson, Paul. Pompeii: an Archaeological Guide. Bloomsbury Academic, 2019.

Catalina Rivas, Graduate Student
Fall 2019