Public toilets (foricae) and sanitation in the Ancient Roman world: case studies in Greece and North Africa

  • Antonella Merletto

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The aim of this thesis is to advance the knowledge on the architectural history of ancient public toilets, called foricae.
The study focuses on the history of their creation in Greek Hellenistic times and on their diffusion in the Roman world of antiquity. Progress in hydraulic technology and building techniques aided their diffusion in most of the Roman world and ultimately established them as distinctive components of many cities from the 2nd century CE onwards. The research introduces a catalogue of all known foricae in the Greek and Roman world and organizes the plan typologies in specific groups corresponding to design variations revealing patterns previously not investigated. The detailed study in the light of comparative data and historical, archaeological and literary sources contributes to a better understanding of foricae and their civil and hygienic role in the ancient Roman city.
Amongst the different plan types, the peristyle forica is undoubtedly the most monumental of all. This study examines the typology's development, focusing on the independent and free-standing forica of Kos (Greece), which, with its incredible decorative apparatus, stands out as the most opulent we know. The research of other case studies belonging to different centuries and to different parts of the Roman Empire, specifically the foricae in the Hadrianic Baths of Lepcis Magna (Lybia) and those of Gortyn (Crete-Greece), allow to formulate conclusive remarks on the growth and continuity of this specific typology of public building. This study provides a comprehensive analysis of foricae identifying their importance both in the history of ancient Roman sanitation and of utilitarian architecture, contributing in shaping the civic context of ancient lifestyle.
Date of Award17 Nov 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorMark Wilson Jones (Supervisor) & Dima Albadra (Supervisor)


  • Ancient public toilets (foricae)
  • Ancient Roman Architecture
  • Ancient Sanitation

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