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Xylospongium – Roman progenitor of toilet paper

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Xylospongium - Roman progenitor of toilet paper
Xylospongium - Roman progenitor of toilet paper

Xylospongium was used by the Romans to clean the anus, the Americans made it a device for cleaning the toilet.

Xylospongium or tersorium, also known as a sponge on a stick, was a hygienic device used by the ancient Romans to wipe the debris from the anus1, consisting of a stick (Greek: ξύλον, Xylon) and a sea sponge (Greek: σπόγγος, sponge) attached to one end of it.

Tersorium was common to all people using the public latrines. To clean the sponge, the user rinsed it in a bucket of water and salt (or vinegar)2. Needless to say, this “hygienic” device became a breeding ground for bacteria, causing the disease to spread – especially in military camps3. Fortunately, the Americans transformed Xylospongium into an irreplaceable toilet brush, and the Romans still have a passion for washing the perineum area, but they do it using a more hygienic bidet, which is equipped in every toilet in Italy.

Author: Kamila Hankus (translated from Polish: Jakub Jasiński)
  1. Mirsky, Steve, „Dotarcie na dno”, Scientific American
  2. Nash, Stephen E, "Co robili starożytni Rzymianie bez papieru toaletowego?"
  3. Gigante Linda. „Śmierć i choroby w starożytnym Rzymie”,

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