Society has come a long way over the millennia. Yes, no longer do we have to use stones as toilet paper or drink blood to cure diseases. But in ancient times, that’s exactly what people did. So next time you’re lamenting all the terrible things going on in the world, just remember: it could be so much worse. Indeed, these bizarre ancient customs will make you so grateful to be alive in the 21st century.
19. Animal droppings were used for medical treatments
Modern medicine has come a very, very long way since ancient Egypt. After all, chances are your doctor won’t be prescribing you a mixture of donkey and gazelle dung for whatever ails you. Back in ancient times, though, animal feces were a go-to remedy thanks to their supposed healing properties. But while antibiotic substances have since been discovered in some types of dung, that doesn’t make the use of feces in medication any more hygienic.
18. Doctors drilled holes in people’s heads as a form of treatment
Picture it: you walk into your doctor’s office, complaining of a headache. Nodding, he reaches into a drawer before pulling out his Bosch multi-tool and drilling straight into your cranium. Well, that’s exactly what happened in ancient times, albeit minus the power tools. Yes, trepanation – or a hole in the head – was used as a cure for all manner of ailments and disease, both physical and mental.
17. Fathers had the legal right to kill their daughter’s lover
The overprotective father stereotype may be slowly going the way of the dodo, but it had to have come from somewhere. One possible origin is an ancient Roman law concerning infidelity. If it was found that a woman had committed adultery, fathers had the right to kill both their daughter and their daughter’s extramarital lover. We can’t imagine many exercising that right today.
16. Fathers had the right to sell their children into slavery
In fact, it turns out that in Ancient Roman times, the patriarch had basically all the rights. And we mean all the rights. For instance, fathers could sell their children into slavery if they liked – a move heralded by Romulus that actually triggered the entire Roman slave state. So, we guess some unloving dads must have taken up the opportunity.
15. Garlic was used as a pregnancy test
If garlic breath is your worst nightmare, be glad that you weren’t around in ancient Greece. You see, the Greeks’ solution for determining pregnancy involved a raw clove of garlic, placed near a woman’s cervix before bed. If she woke up to find she could taste the distinctive flavor on her tongue, the test was deemed positive. Now that’s some incredible morning breath…
14. Ancient Egyptians shaved off their eyebrows to mourn cats
It’s no secret that cats were highly venerated in ancient Egypt. Indeed, they were basically viewed as demi-gods, worshipped alongside the many gods and goddesses that the Egyptians prayed to. When a feline died, then, it was kind of a big deal. And one way in which people mourned these catastrophic events was by shaving off their own eyebrows.
13. Urine was used as laundry detergent
In case you weren’t aware, urine is full of a useful compound called ammonia, which you’ve probably seen on the ingredients lists of household cleaning substances. You see, ammonia is a very good base for getting rid of tough stains. Back in ancient Rome, then, people would collect urine and use it to wash their clothes, stomping on the garments to aid the process.
12. Gladiator’s blood was used to cure epilepsy
If you’ve ever watched a historical movie and thought how cool it would be to be alive back then, you may want to reconsider. After all, if you had any kind of debilitating illness, chances are that medicine wasn’t going to make it any better. Particularly when that medicine included gladiator’s blood, which people drank to cure epilepsy. Grim, eh?
11. Lead and sulfur were used for hair dye
Modern hair dye is full of potential side effects, from allergic reactions to simply ruining the quality of your hair. But all those pale in comparison to the dyes used by ancient cultures including the Romans and Egyptians. Indeed, their dyes often consisted of lead pastes, which reacted with the natural sulfur in hair. Sounds safe, right?
10. Egyptian eye makeup was a lead-based paste
And lead wasn’t limited to just hair dye, either. Indeed, back in ancient times, a lead-based paste was the foundation of Egyptian beauty, and the consequences were often dire. The cosmetics often led to irritable skin and insomnia, and they could even decrease the wearer’s brain function over time. Be grateful, then, that you don’t have to go that far to look your best.
9. Weird concoctions were used for contraceptives
One early Egyptian contraceptive actually worked in a similar way to modern tampons, in that there were vaginal suppositories. The similarities, however, end there. Indeed, this particular concoction was comprised of unripe acacia, dates and nearly a pint of honey. But while it seems that some of the ingredients involved did indeed help reduce fertility, we can’t imagine that this method was very pleasant.
8. Murderers faced particularly unusual punishments
Specifically, the Roman punishment for parricide – the murder of a parent or close relative – was about as bizarre as the death penalty can be. First, the guilty party was forced into a leather sack, along with a selection of live animals – often just snakes but sometimes others creatures including dogs and monkeys, too. The bag was then sewn shut before being thrown into water.
7. Ancient Greek doctors tasted bodily fluids
Hippocrates may have been one of the pioneers of medicine, but his methods seem completely foreign in today’s society. For instance, the Greek doctor would often taste his patients’ earwax, pus and urine in order to diagnose them. We’re guessing that your doctor probably wouldn’t do the same, even if you asked them nicely.
6. Stones were used instead of toilet paper
Next time you’re using a public restroom and have to put up with single-ply toilet paper, just be grateful that you weren’t around in ancient Greece. After all, the Greeks had a saying, “Three stones are enough to wipe” – a phrase that would inspire fear in even the hardiest of rear ends. “Stones” actually refers more specifically to small ceramic pebbles, but we can’t imagine that being any more comfortable.
5. Athletes sold their sweat
This is definitely one of the more bizarre customs held in ancient times, but we bet that more than a few of you would like to earn some extra bucks from an intense workout. Yes, centuries ago it was once seen as normal to scrape off and collect the sweat produced from exercising at the gymnasium, as it could then be sold for medical purposes. Most commonly, in fact, the bodily fluid was used to treat inflammations.
4. Crocodile dung was used for skin cream
People rub some pretty strange stuff on their skin nowadays, but none of today’s remedies compare to the ingredients used in ancient times. Just imagine smearing crocodile feces all over your face, for instance, as was the common practice in ancient Greece. We’re pretty sure we’d just put up with terrible skin if that was the only alternative.
3. Ancient Greeks held phallic processions
Imagine walking down the street, only to find yourself in the middle of a parade dedicated to phallic symbols. It definitely wouldn’t fly today, but in ancient Greece, it was basically the norm. The processions also involved people chanting curse words and shouting abuse at each other, because if it’s already weird, why not go one step further?
2. Ancient Romans ate alongside and fed their dead
Nowadays, when a loved one passes away, a graveside visit to leave flowers is pretty much the extent of any interaction. But not so in ancient times, when people would regularly dine at gravesides and even send food down for the dead via pipes. Just imagine all that food going moldy underground – as if a rotting corpse wasn’t grim enough already.
1. Public toilets were a place to socialize
Bars, parks, local events – all normal places to socialize and meet people. But public restrooms? Yeah, try uttering a word in a public bathroom and you’ll be cast out as some kind of social pariah. Back in the days of the Roman empire, though, public latrines were one of the most popular places to chat, hang out and even conduct business.