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15 Truly Bizarre Facts About Ancient Rome

Ancient Romans did everything from drinking gladiator blood to washing clothes in urine.

1. Gladiator blood was recommended by Roman physicians to aid various ailments, including epilepsy and infertility.

2. Purple clothing was a status symbol and reserved only for emperors or senators. To achieve the color, a dye was made from murex seashells. It was treason for anyone other than the emperor to dress completely in purple.

3. Emperor Claudius' third wife, Valeria Messalina, was a nymphomaniac. According to ancient historians, she once competed with a prostitute to see who could have the most sexual partners in a night.

4. Phalluses were considered good luck charms. They were worn as charms on necklaces or hung in doorways as wind chimes as a way to ward off evil spirits.

5. Left-handed people were considered unlucky.

6. Emperor Caligula often appeared in public dressed in women’s clothing.

7. Caligula's favorite horse, Incitatus, lived in a marble stable, with an ivory manger. Caligula also tried to make him a consul — the highest elected office of the Roman Republic and the most important job in the government.

8. In the first century B.C., the poet Gaius Valerius Catullus addressed two of his critics, another poet Furius and a senator Aurelius, in a poem considered so vulgar and obscene that it was not translated outside of Latin until the 20th century.

9. Romans thought the early Christians were practicing cannibalism when they heard about them eating bread and wine as symbolic representations of the body and blood of Christ.

10. People would socialize at communal toilets. Rome had over 140 public toilets.

11. Wealthy Romans would have extravagant and decadent banquets that lasted for hours; in order to continue eating, they would induce vomiting.

12. Hair dying was popular among women, with red and blonde being the most popular colors. Dye colors were achieved through different ingredients, like goat fat, beech wood ashes, henna, saffron, and bleach.

13. While Romans were extremely hygienic, they did not use soap. Instead, to get clean they would apply perfumed oils to their skin and then scrape it off with a tool known as a strigil.

14. Not everyone wore togas. Only free-born Roman men as a were allowed to wear togas (as a sign of Roman citizenship), while Roman women wore stolas.

15. Urine (because of the ammonia it contains) was used to clean clothes. The urine was collected by fullones (the Ancient Roman version of dry cleaners) from around the city.