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Latin Vocabulary: Vomitorium?

by Steve
(San Francisco)

Dear Latin Teacher,

Did the Romans really have something called the vomitorium? I have heard that Romans used this chamber because the wealthy Romans used to eat to excess. Is this really true or just an urban myth?

Thank you, Steve

Dear Steve,

A vomitorium was not what most would think, although it does have to do with spewing out. In classical Latin the word is used to refer to the large entrances and exits under the seats of an amphitheater. These vomitoria were able to spew forth a large crowd quickly.

The Flavian amphitheater had 80 gates, and it is said that 50,000 spectators might have been able to exit the building in about 15 minutes.

Hope this helps and thanks for asking a Latin teacher.



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