5 Bizarre Customs in Ancient Greece and Rome

  • Ancient Greek showering
Ancient Greek showering
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It would be an understatement to say that life was very different a couple thousand years ago, be it food or housing or hygiene. In many cases, that was due to a lack of scientific understanding — such as how the human body works, or how to build an oven in a house without setting it on fire. Social norms in ancient times were also a sharp contrast to modern ones, particularly where modesty is concerned. Many of the customs practiced by ancient Greeks and Romans would be considered unusual or even gross today, such as purchasing sweat from famous athletes or washing clothes in urine. Here are five strange ancient habits we’re happy to leave in the past.

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Drinking Gladiator Blood

In Roman gladiatorial combat, athletes were forced to fight in front of a live audience, sometimes to the death. Yet the public’s thirst for blood didn’t stop there. The blood of defeated gladiators was considered a powerful medicine, and was used to treat everything from epilepsy to impotence. Patients were even encouraged to drink directly from the fallen gladiator on the battlefield. Roman scholar Pliny the Elder wrote that “these persons, forsooth, consider it a most effectual cure for their disease, to quaff the warm, breathing, blood from man himself, and, as they apply their mouth to the wound, to draw forth his very life.” Livers from fallen gladiators were also a supposed cure for various ailments, and Roman physician Scribonius Largus wrote of spectators who would “snatch a piece of liver from a gladiator lying gutted in the dust.” Gladiators often died young, powerful, and healthy, which is likely why their blood was so sought-after.

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