What Did Ancient Romans Do Without Toilet Paper?


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Just plain old curiosity.

In the same way that we use an American-style toilet, a Roman user would sit down, take care of business, and watch number two float blissfully away down the sewer system. But instead of reaching for a roll of toilet paper, an ancient Roman would often grab a tersorium (or, in my technical terms, a “toilet brush for your butt”). A tersorium is an ingenious little device made by attaching a natural sponge (from the Mediterranean Sea, of course) to the end of a stick. Our ancient Roman would simply wipe him- or herself, rinse the tersorium in whatever was available (running water and/or a bucket of vinegar or salt water), and leave it for the next person to use. That’s right, it was a shared butt cleaner. (And of course, there were other means of wiping as well, such as the use of abrasive ceramic discs called pessoi.)

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Stephen E. Nash — Sapiens

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WORDS ARE THE DRESS OF THOUGHTS


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This piece was written in 1748. It is about what it takes to be a gentleman.

In every language, pray attend carefully to the choice of your words, and to the turn of your expression. Indeed, it is a point of very great consequence. To be heard with success, you must be heard with pleasure: words are the dress of thoughts; which should no more be presented in rags, tatters, and dirt, than your person should. By the way, do you mind your person and your dress sufficiently? Do you take great care of your teeth? Pray have them put in order by the best operator at Rome. Are you belaced, bepowdered, and befeathered, as other young fellows are, and should be?

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Lord Chesterfield — Vestoj

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History is Written by the Losers


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Those who rule do not have the time to write about it. Occasionally history produces a Caesar or a Mao, men who can lead the masses to war on the one hand, while serving as prolific propogandists for their cause on the other. The greater part mankind is not so talented. Sima Guang would never have finished his history had he not been shunted out of Song court politics. Had Thucydides defeated Brasidas, he would be known today not as a historian, but as a military strategist, a strategist who never had the time to travel the world and collect the material needed to write his history. Even winning historians need time in defeat to write their histories—had Churchill’s party not been kicked out of power by British voters after the Second World War was over, Churchill’s famous account of that war would never have been written.

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The Scholar’s Stage

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Hero or War Criminal? Churchill in Retrospect


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A damning critique.

But the principal victims of Winston Churchill were Indians, ‘a beastly people with a beastly religion’, as he charmingly called us. Churchill’s beatification as an apostle of freedom seems all the more preposterous given his explicit declaration in 1941 that the principles of the Atlantic Charter would not apply to India. Churchill’s notions of freedom and democracy faltered at the frontiers of empire: he was an appalling racialist, one who could not bring himself to see people of colour as entitled to the same rights as himself. “Gandhi-ism and all it stands for,” declared Churchill, “will, sooner or later, have to be grappled with and finally crushed.” He spoke luridly of having the Mahatma tied to the ground and trampled upon by elephants.

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Shashi Tharoor — OPEN

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The Surprisingly Intolerant History of Milk


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But even with these deep cultural connections, milk held a peculiar status among early civilizations. The Greeks castigated barbarians for their gluttonous desire for dairy, and in Rome, milk was widely regarded as low-status food because it was something only farmers drank. Northern Europeans would earn similar ridicule for their love of reindeer milk, and Japanese Buddhists later rebuked Europeans as “butter stinkers.”

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Daniel Fernandez — Smithsonian

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Is technology bringing history to life or distorting it?


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Earlier History would be subject to interpretation of historians basis scant evidence. But, now History can be recreated to tell the story you want to say.

Taking more than 116,000 snippets of speech from samples of the 35th president’s other recordings, a Scottish “voice cloning” firm has produced a Kennedy-esque rendition of his final scripted words:

“America’s leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason,” a virtual version of that unmistakable Boston Brahmin accent intones, “or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem.”

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Steve Hendrix — The Washington Post

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What Not to Wear: The Deadliest Hats, Scarves, and Skirts in History


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Sometimes we do go overboard, don’t we?

While women often choose high heels for themselves for reasons of status, the sense of power that comes with added height, the amped-up sex appeal, and the element of danger implied by a sharp heel, there’s no question that the higher the heel you wear, the harder it is to run. It’s a cliché of horror, sci-fi, and adventure films to depict a beautiful woman stumbling in the face of danger or throwing off her shoes to run from a monster. But in real life, stilettos can deny a woman a quick escape from a monstrous man—and make an everyday activity a hazard.

In Killer Fashion, Wright explains how Winston Churchill’s mother, Jennie Jerome, fell to her death in 1921 trying to navigate a flight of stairs. “Jerome is my poster girl for high heels killing someone,” she says, “but I think it would be incorrect to assume that other women have not toppled off of high heels—especially if they were outrageously high, as they were for quite a bit of history.”

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Lisa Hix — Collectors Weekly

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