View Full Version : Were the Romans & Greeks ED'd?

06-17-2001, 05:48 AM
:love :love :bowl :love :love

:trigger speaks about purging

Well hello there fishies - yet another off the wall post by Dory :sarcasm But I actually think about this often. In ED awareness we soend a lot of time looking at statistics, polls, origin philosophies etc. I have done a lot of research on origins in terms of socio economic class, eras, religions etc. I have seen stuff on religious fasting, and interestingly one supposed case of the first anorexic being a servant girl a few hundred years ago. But what I never find and I often wonder about are the ancient Greeks and Romans. They had vomitoriums in which as a culture it was accepted to eat beyond satisfaction at dinners then go purge it and go back for more. It was over indulgance for the pure fact that they could - so people say. But this is very disordered! And as this was thousands of years ago, were eds prevalent even then? Religious fasting was. In Las Vegas, or at least the last tine I was there, Caesars Casino and Hotel had a dinner they called the ancient banquet something or other. And though it wasn't usable - FORTUNATELY!!! - they had a replicated vomitorium next to the banquet room. But it did make me wonder - the banquet itself was just ridiculously so much food, and the idea of that replicated room next door - I am sure this resulted in more than suggestion.

Sorry if this was gross but I do wonder about this in terms of ed origin.

Thoughts? Opinions?


06-17-2001, 10:08 AM
I've heard of this before, and it does sound odd. It was socially accepted to overeat and vomit in Rome, so would it be considered that that was an eating disorder? I don't know. I personally don't consider religious fasting disordered eating because it's not permanent and it's done for a Higher Power. Anyway, those are just my thoughts. :shy

06-17-2001, 10:21 AM
((((((((Fish of Hope))))))

TY for your reply. I guess I should have clarified my take on the religous fasting better - I meant to say that I have found articles and theories on it being an ed - not whether or not I believe or not believe it to be. And because there is a spirituality forum on this site, I would not like to see that debated here. I'd really like to keep this to the cultural acceptance in rome to b/p.

When I apply my question to most behavior "Is it disruptive and unhealthy?" I would say emphatically YES - even if their culture accepted it, it was disruptive and unhealthy as we know what cycles of b/p can do. They were an inteligent society, and they had to have known, at least after awhile, that it WAS unhealthy purely by the effects the behavior had on them. Yet they continued. And so to what purpose?

I know this is becoming a tangent, but from me thats not really out of the norm is it? :sarcasm

Any more thoughts and ideas?


06-17-2001, 01:24 PM
Well i'm no history expert, but well i do have an opinion, for all it's worth :winky

I think that yes, these actions were harmful even if they were cultural norms...i don't know if i would consider them disordered though. I guess it's kinda like the smoking thingie :smokin we now know it is bad for you, but this isn't something we have always known and been able connect the harmful effects of smoking to smoking itself, therefore it was a bad cultural norm. I guess that's kinda how i view the Romans, more as they had a bad cultural norm...but i don't know if i would say the entire upper class was disordered, but that's just my opinion.

As for religious fasting i think it depends on the resons behind the fast,and also what type of fast (not all religious fast require a complete absention of food)

Time and time again we hear how eds are not about food, the food is the symptom NOT the disorder...so in both situation i figure that without the mental aspects of the ed it really isn't the disorder. I mean i have an ed, but i know it's not about the food, it's about the control over SOMETHING...lol but that's another story...

Well that's about all for now...it's just my thoughts

Love you loads, thanks for the topic Dory!

love Andi

06-17-2001, 01:25 PM
Ummmmm thoughts?? LOL

Well I was eating my breakfast this am and I just started laughing when I read this. LOL :muhaha not cause its funny but just because ewwwwwwww gross!! I thought hmmm only miss Dory would think of this.:happy


06-17-2001, 02:23 PM
LOL Kristi :sarcasm

Andi u actually brought up my question about to what purpose did they do this? Aside from knowing it was harmful, they did it and in reality, how much pleasure does the average person get from a b/p? I think the fill the void theory applied. Its one thing to overeat and not have an ed. But to purge and continue the cycle? I do believe there was emotional or stress reasons behind it.

U brought up smoking as a cultural norm, even without understanding the consequences health wise. Well I am a smoker and I can indeed say it is self medicating. It is relaxing - a stress relief. Same with alcohol - even before the ill effects were known. For a specific group within a society, especially the upper class, to continue this practice makesme wonder. Remember, there was a time when eds (esp anorexia) were connsidered a white, upper middle class, female disease. Why? Well supposedly the perfectionist, driven personality that came with the stresses of successgul families played a part. Wouldn't the same personalities and desire to be perfect afflict an aristicratic class of the ancients? Remember they ruled thru power - armies and conquering. Power and perfectionism. Think of all the sculptures ascribing to the oerfect body. Think of the philosophical and scientific marks they were making. And this was a time when the Roman Empire was fierce. I'd say it has all of the "prerequisites" for lack of a better phrase.

Still thinking................


06-17-2001, 03:35 PM
:hugon Eilis :hugoff

This is a really interesting post. I'd never heard about it before, but it really makes you think. What is "normal"? There's no such thing. Anyway, thanks for sharing.

06-17-2001, 05:09 PM
Well i think a big part of it has to do with the have's and have not's in society. Part if the idea of eating past your limits shows that they had more than enough...which was a sign of power. Through eating and them purging they demonstrated how much they had...heck they even had the "luxury" of a slave to assist...

Also on the idea of smoking, other things cause a natural high...working out, playing with kids, the sun, talking to friends, laughing, religious expereinces, etc...not all things that make us feel good are bad for us...so with a lack of knowledge on the topic whoes to say which is a bad good and which is a good good (if that makes sense) if they didn't know i think it is hard to call something disordered...When i laugh i don't think oh this must be bad for me since i feel better after doing it

I think i'll try doing a little research to find out whether or not the romans knew of the medical ramification. The romans were great thinkers, i know i've read mentions of vomitoriums and the activities which accompany such locations in various philosophy courses but always mentioned as just a cerimonial part of life, not as an activity done to releive stress...but that doesn't mean it didn't play that role in their lives.

If i find some good info i'll be sure to share it...

loads of love

06-17-2001, 08:03 PM
Very interesting topic :hugonDory:hugoff I've always been interested in the Ancient Roman's because they were such a culture of excess. What about those communal roman baths? And those roman orgies? It's known that people all over the world and through out the years have practiced weird/strange eating habits. Ancient Egyptians believed and engaged in monthly purges in attempts to remain "healthy." The Greeks and Romans practiced bulimia and they termed it, "Ox Hunger." Like Dory said......after their feasts they would relieve themselves in those Vomitorums! Yuk!

The french actually called it, "La Boulimie." And in the eighteenth century anorexia or "mania for leaness" was around. A lot of the anorexic women were very wealthy and in denial. Back in the middle ages the main issue about self-starvation was whether it was the work of the devil or God?

So....you get into the realm of what was their motivation behind the supposed eating disorder? I mean I don't think it was until the nineteen seventies that people started to link it with mental causes? Outside of the huge roman feasts of access that prompted guys to eat huge amounts of food just to purge and re-feed? I think that a section of people probably suffered for the same reasons we do today. Low self-esteem issues, comparative (in their day?} media image issues, guilt, anxiety, perfection etc. etc. Some of our ancient civilizations were very advanced. Why not the same mental/head reasons involved with an ed?
Love beth :sun

06-17-2001, 08:27 PM
I have thought about this one too. I don't think they were all disordered. I think that it's like drinking alcohol in our society. Some can socially drink and take it or leave it. In Rome these were probably the people who went to the binge-feasts sometimes, but were overall pretty healthy. Then in our society there are those who have no control over their alcohol consumption once they start drinking and they have to drink every day. These people can be compared to those in Rome who were truly bulimic and had to binge-purge every day for various control issues. I realize that these feasts are feasts of excess, but I think some people took it further than others. In our own society we do the same thing all the time. Some people can overeat and feel absolutely stuffed for a few hours, but be perfectly fine with it, not lose their self-esteem, and forget about it the next day. Then there are those of us who can overeat and suddenly think our whole world is falling down around us. It's all a matter of degrees. Anyway, that's what I think. I wonder what I would look like if I lived back in ancient Rome? :sarcasm

:wand :notes

06-17-2001, 11:22 PM
This is a very intriguing thread. :hugon:bowl:hugoff

I think that before Freud and the revolution of psychology, societies didn't really get into the mental causes of different physiological diseases. I suppose all those middle-ages anorexics probably had some real self-esteem issues.

And as far as the health problems go in Rome, I imagine they probably had the same ones that ED'd people have today. They just most likely didn't link the symptoms to b/ping. Perhaps like smokers in the seventeenhundreds didn't link it to terrible lung diseases. If someone died of an electrolyte imbalance, I don't think the Greeks would have known the difference. Probably just thought they were struck down by Zeus or something. :sarcasm Also, life expectancy was a lot lower anyway.

Just some wacko theories from Happyglow.

06-18-2001, 09:04 AM
:bounce :bounce :bounce

I agree I don't think they linked it to mental illness, however I think I am going to stick with the belief that it was disordered and served a purpose other than eating for the love of food. Its probably true not all of them had eds, but I believe some did. So for me its feasable that eds were prevalent as early as many centuries B.C.

Thanks to all of you for your imput. My mind seems racing with different theories lately.


06-18-2001, 09:38 AM
Hi Dory--
I just did an online search for the term, and in general there is a lot of SICK stuff out there. No pun intended; just lots of tasteless, inappropriate, and potentially triggering material.
What I was looking for is a reference to people who study Classics, the history and language of Ancient Greece and Rome. I did luck into one exchange about the very topic of the word "vomitorium" which you might find interesting. I just copied and pasted, so here goes:

In the strictly architectural sense,a *vomitorium* is an entrance to
the seating area of a theatre or an amphitheatre which emerges in the
middle of the seats from the substructure of the building - as in the
Colosseum (or in most modern sports complexes). Macrobius uses it in
this sense. The adjective *vomitorius, -a, um* can be used of
anything having to do with throwing up; but I've never seen it used
of a special room for the purpose!
Bill Kerr
Dept. of Classics and Ancient History
University of New Brunswick
Fredericton, NB, Canada

> Dear listmembers,
> I recently came across the word 'vomitorium'. According to the definition
> it was a room (in ancient Roman houses) where people vomited between the
> different stages of a meal. But I am doubtful about it's existence, for I
> failed to find the word in any Latin dictionary or other sources.
> I would be happy if anyone could provide any information about it.
> Thanks
> Volker Stadtfeld

anyway, hope that helps clarify it.

06-18-2001, 10:16 AM
vom·i·to·ry, vom·i·tor·i·um

One of the tunnellike passages of an amphitheater or stadium between the seats and the outside wall or passageway.

Main Entry: vom·i·to·ry
Etymology: Late Latin vomitorium, from Latin vomere; from its disgorging the spectators.
- an entrance piercing the banks of seats of a theater, amphitheater, or stadium.

Note: disgorging can mean the same as vomit... but the literal sense is "to discharge the contents of" (where the river disgorges into the sea) -- the debate may actually lie in the translatation of vomere; "from its disgorging the spectators" -- this does not mean a place for the spectators to disgorge -- but a place for the spectators to be disgorged (or discharged) from the arena.

My two cents :cute

06-18-2001, 10:42 AM
OK so what I really need to do then is hop a :ufo Quantum Leap style, pack some :edbgone just in case they were B!, have my :boink pilot take me back to B.C Rome (dodging all :eye and :cousinit along the way) and find out what they really did!!!!

:muhaha :muhaha :muhaha


06-18-2001, 11:19 AM
Just wondering if perhaps they did it b/c they loved food so much, bordering on gluttony?
I mean the food, was plentiful, and as you said a "symbol of wealth", but then the question remains, "why to the point of stuffing, then puking"?

I mean I have an ed, so I might not be the best person to "debate" this issue, as well as I just plain may not know what the hell I am talking about . (In the factual knowledge of Romans and Greeks and their eating habits).
As sitting here thinking, it is a "foreign concept to me (the b/p ing) but please do not confuse that w/ignorance.

So they loved to eat, but do you ever wonder what was behind the overeating. What emotions were going on? What situations (in their lives, or of the era they lived in) were/ was going on?
Anyways ya made me think!
Take gentle care of you,

06-18-2001, 01:28 PM
:cheesy I just spent yesterday viewing the Roman and Greek ruins at the British Museum.

And, bugger all, I didnt not see one single vomitorium in any of the displays :winky

:peace on :world

06-19-2001, 07:58 AM
Well one more thng - remember that empire spanned thousands of years so it is possible that this eating and purging was only part of a certain era. I do know - whether a vomitorium means one thing or another - the practice of eating then purging it was accepted at least for some time. And that is really what I was getting at.

My :ufo is late - where is :boink ????? Is he playing around with :robot ?????


06-19-2001, 08:23 AM
hey :bowl

the thing with the romans was, their dinner, or cena, was a huge social event, that went on for hours, with dancing girls and singers to entertain them. it was the evening ritual of the rich, and looooads of different and extravagant dishes were made, both to show off wealth, and the creativity of the cook.

but the thing is, the romans sat down to dinner to socialise, not because they were upset/hungry/angry/tired/etc and wanted to b/p to control it. therefore, it's disordered eating...but it's not an eating disorder.

much :love *hugs* and :clover
ickle :touched

06-19-2001, 08:30 AM

TY for your reply. "wanted b/p to control it" I think thats a very important point. And I also think it's more ed than not.


07-11-2001, 01:17 PM
:hairy So very interesting.