Did the Romans vomit to eat more beetween meals? This is a fairly consistent, and I must also say, ageless belief. But it’s not true. They may have been extremely opulent, flaunting of many of the excesses of of life and wealth, but this is perhaps just one step too far. I mean, Romans vomit to eat more between meals, come on. I know food is good, but geesh. No matter how good the food is, the task of vomiting is about as unpleasant an experience that you can have and in my opinion far outweighs any benefit a banquet could ever provide. So what was all this about, and how has it managed to stay as a commonly held belief for so long?
Well, don’t feel ashamed if you thought this was true, you aren’t the first and you won’t be the last. It’s commonly held that the Romans lived life to the fullest, flaunting the excesses of their lifestyle. There were of course the Roman orgies, a modern mans dream. There were also other excesses, such as cruelty, brutal public exhibitions such as gladiator bouts and the stain on humanity, slavery. So with so many blights on the Romans way of life, certainly it was plausible that the Romans vomit to eat more between meals. Plausible, perhaps, but as with many myths, there is a hint of truth mixed with massive amounts of confusion.
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Now this all begins with a Roman structure called a vomitorium. Just mentioning the name would make you think that it is an auditorium used for vomiting, right? Well, the vomitorium wasn’t used for vomiting at all. It was actually a passageway, nothing too fancy there at all. Look up your own hallway, or any other passageway, it’s not exactly used for the purpose for emptying the contents of your stomach is it?
One of the first misinterpretation of its meaning was made by author Aldous Huxley in his book Antic Hay, published in 1923, with the sentence “There strode in, like a Goth into the elegant marble vomitorium of Petronius Arbiter, a haggard and dishevelled person.” Huxley took the English word and assumed that that it meant the same in Latin. That’s quite a little mistake, I must admit, but it caught on pretty darn fast, and before long it was common knowledge that the Romans vomit to eat more between meals.