I'm just curious. Since the collapse of the Roman Empire it is known that most of the technology that the Romans used were forgotten and that includes personal hygiene. How did people throw there waste?
In western and central Europe, it was kinda bad. The water were not the cleanest you can get. and people bathed only once a week or two in summer. I suppose that not at all during winter. they hardly washed their hands or face, either.
Originally Posted by Marcus Aurelius
Waste was thrown into the street or into rivers, and was sometimes taken away from the town in carts in rich areas. There were rules about killing animals, tanning, and placing fecal material in populated places coming to practice by the end of the 14th century however.
Personal hygiene was not great, some people cleaned their teeth by chewing scented herbs, charcoal rubbing and sage brushing, and most rinsed their mouths with water. Many town dwellers and lords bathed in barrels full of warm water, and people in the country washed in rivers. People washed their hands before dining.
People in towns and cities often had piped water to public fountains, or to their houses if they were well off. On special occasions, these were made to run with wine.
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It depends on what part of the Middle Ages we are talking about. In the early period people spread out into small villages and towns, so they didn't have a huge issue with waste and filth building up. Rivers/streams/lakes were usually available to bathe in, though I'm sure they didn't wash all that often. Later on as towns grew and people began crowding together, they had worse sanitary conditions, though probably not as bad as many would think at first.
edit: I'm talking mainly about Western Europe. Of course other areas were a bit different. The Romans in the east preserved the baths and such, for example.
Life expectancy was quite low, for an average peasant in Western Europe it was around 30 or so. Then again, hygiene wasn't any better later on. By 1800 average life expectancy was still around 35 years, and by 1900 about 45 or so.
Originally Posted by A.J.P. TaylorOriginally Posted by Miel Cools
Cò am Fear am measg ant-sluaigh,
A mhaireas buan gu bràth?
Chan eil sinn uileadh ach air chuart,
Mar dhìthein buaile fàs,Bheir siantannan na bliadhna sìos,'S nach tog a' ghrian an àird.
Originally Posted by Jörg FriedrichOriginally Posted by Louis Napoleon III, Des Idees Napoleoniennes
Originally Posted by Wolfgang Held
Jajem ssoref is m'n korewE goochem mit e wenk, e nar mit e shtompWer niks is, hot kawsones
It isn't that people were too stupid or poor to take baths then, it's just it was popular belief then that bathing actually made you dirtier, which is why even monarchs very rarely bathed, and used perfume to "wash off". The common peasant was quite poor and was quite filthy, though middle-class peasants were a bit better. It's a common stereotype that in the Middle Ages, peasants were nothing but these filthy, poor fools, and thought this was generally true, it definately wasn't the only type of lifestyle a peasant had.
Last edited by Manco; January 04, 2010 at 04:53 PM.
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I dont know elsewhere but in Venice, people were clean and parfumed (not only the nobles) and houses had a primitive small bathroom inside. People were usual to bath everyday (not in the lagoon ofcourse) using hot water bowls and soaps. The real problem was that all the trash was literaly thrown off the window. At conclusion: people very clean, roads very dirty
Put it this way: improvements in hygiene in the last century is the main reason people live ~80 years, instead of 40.
First of all, there were huge regional differences across Europe.
Second of all, there is a dependency on time we are talking about.
As a matter of fact, the turning point and the crucial factor was the black death, which was one of the deadliest pandemics in human history, peaking in Western Europe between 1348 and 1350.
Before the black death, people in Western Europe still used baths. But when the black death massacred Europe, western doctors stated that a contact with water is unwholesome. That is why we can see a huge regress in hygiene in Western countries since 14th c.
However not the whole Europe was massacred by the black death to the same degree. Eastern Europe was in much better situation and ideas of Western doctors weren't too popular here. People still used baths although the popularity of public baths decreased.
Some of you mentioned the king Louis XIV. He is a perfect example of the school of avoiding water. He had the first contact with a water in the age of 5 (we know it from detailed notes of his personal doctor). But Louis XIV's experience can't be applied to the whole Europe. For example French travelers in 17th c. were shocked when they saw that mothers in Poland washed their children completly every day and that even old men, during a hard frosts, washed their faces and hands every day.
Another thing - toilets.
It's true that Versailles didn't have toilets. But it is only some French specificy. Teutonic Knights had toilets in their castles built in 14th c. already. They still exist.
Toilets were obligatory in houses of Plish nobility. There were temporairly toilets too (for example in a military camp - and it was obligatory for every 'poczet' to have its own toilet). Cities in Poland had public toilets. There is a famous (in Poland of course ) Jan Kochanowski's poem (from 16th c.), who complains that he had to pay more for a public toilet than for an egg he ate just before it.
All in all, hygiene in Europe depended on times and regions.
Last edited by Radosław Sikora; January 04, 2010 at 11:53 PM.