Thursday, August 27, 2015


Petitionary Prayer in the Chapel of Ease

Dear Mike,

This would be my inscription for a privy, from the lost Pervigilium Cloacinae:
Cras cacet qui nunquam bene cacavit; quique cacavit cras cacet.
The version in the Pervigilium Veneris doesn't quite have the same ... well, assonance let's say.

Apropos of petitionary prayer in the chapel of ease, see Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow, The Archaeology of Sanitation in Roman Italy: Toilets, Sewers, and Water Systems (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015), pp. 113-114 (footnotes omitted):
In the toilet of the Suburban Baths [Pompeii], the nail holes in the plaster are visible on each side of the painted garland. Very likely, real flowers were at least occasionally hung there there both to honor the goddess and perhaps also to diminish the powerful smells from the toilet drains. Fortuna is not only in the central position of the toilet decoration (as she is in others), but in the toilet of the Suburban Baths she looks directly at the toilet users, as they must have looked at her, and it appears she was actually worshipped in these settings. An altar is present, if only painted; there are garlands (painted but there is evidence of fresh garlands, with the nail holes); and a sacrificial fire is represented in the paintings as well. Perhaps toilet users could ask Fortuna for a satisfactory bowel movement, the favor of finding no blood in one's stool, the favor of escaping the toilet unharmed.
Unharmed in the nether regions by explosions of trapped methane, or Aelian and Pliny the Elder's octopus in the sewer* or, less fancifully, rats and insects (p. 114).

Best wishes,
Eric [Thomson]

* Camilla Asplund Ingemark, "The Octopus in the Sewers: An Ancient Legend Analogue," Journal of Folklore Research 45.2 (May-August, 2008) 145-170.


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