Aspects Of Ancient Roman Society That Were Frankly Barbaric

At its peak, the sprawling Roman Empire stretched from Britain to the Middle East, taking in large swathes of northern Africa. By common consent it brought civilization to many parts of the Old World — even if not everyone gave their conquerors a grateful welcome. But if you look beneath the civilized surface you’ll probably be surprised at the sheer barbarity of some everyday Roman habits.

Gladiator blood 

In our time people who suffer from epilepsy can turn to a number of drug and other treatments to control their condition. But during the days of the Roman Empire, those who were afflicted by epilepsy turned to a far grimmer pursuit.

The most favored remedy for epilepsy back then was the blood of slain gladiators. That’s right: Roman doctors would prescribe this gory liquid as a cure for those afflicted by epileptic fits. Gruesomely, this cure was said to be most effective if the blood was fresh.

Eyebrow weirdness

Few modern women, it’s fair to say, regard eyebrows that meet in the middle as something to which they aspire. But Roman women had very different ideas about their eyebrows. Indeed they positively sought a single brow above their eyes.

Of course not everyone could actually grow their eyebrows to meet in the middle. But resourceful Roman women had remedies for that. If their eyebrows were distressingly separated, they would simply join them up with a line of soot or kohl. Alternatively, they’d strategically glue on some animal hair.

Sick of eating

Wealthy Romans really loved their food: they just couldn’t get enough of it at the lavish banquets they loved to throw. In fact, they just didn’t want to stop eating, even when their appetites were entirely sated so that they couldn’t manage another morsel.

But there was a way to carry on chowing down on the elaborate dishes served at elite feasts. Make yourself vomit, and then you’d have plenty of room to carry on gorging. A resounding “Yuck” seems to be the only sane reaction today.

Bad-hair days

For Roman women, the ideal of beauty was to have either blonde or red hair. Of course, not everyone is blessed by nature with hair of either color. And let’s remember that women of Rome were largely of Italian stock, so being born brunette was hardly a rarity.

If you were unlucky enough to have dark hair, dying was the answer. Some of the dye ingredients were fairly horrifying, such as wood ash or goat fat. Roman women also used red-hot brass rods to curl their locks. Tragically, all this mistreatment could end in baldness. So it’s not a surprise that wigs were popular.