Why a vomitorium is not what it sounds like...

Roman Amphitheatre

© English Heritage

    • If you have been studying the Ancient Romans, you have probably come across the term 'vomitorium' which comes from a Latin word, 'vomo', which means 'to spew forth' – it’s also where we get the term ‘vomit’ from.

      We love the idea that rich Romans enjoyed feasting and drinking so much that when they had their fill, they would visit their vomitorium to make some space in their bellies. They would do this by spewing forth everything they had just eaten.

      But it simply isn’t true. A vomitorium was not a room used for vomiting.

      You would find vomitoria in Roman stadia and amphitheatres, especially the really big ones. A vomitorium is essentially an exit for a large group of people – the building is spewing forth its audience, vomiting people from their seats to the streets outside.

      It’s not a very pleasant image is it?

      In the UK, archaeologists have only discovered one Roman stadium with a vomitorium.You can visit it in Chester.

      Although it was discovered in 1929, it wasn’t until excavations in 2005 that the true size and scale of the stadium was revealed. Experts now think that it could have held between 8,000 and 10,000 spectators, which suggests that Chester was a very important city in Roman Britain.
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