The Roman way of life (allegedly)

"...they vomit so that they may eat, and eat so that they may vomit" - Seneca

Going one stage further, and a step back in time, the Romans had a special room for it, in the popular belief. Their Bacchanalian orgies of food and wine went on for hours, and they were faced with a dilemma - to stop enjoying themselves, or to continue.

In the commonly-held view, their solution was both elegant and necessary. In addition to special rooms in which to bathe, disrobe, sleep and eat, why not one dedicated to the discharging of excess stomach contents? The vomitorium was born.

Of course, this is all now known to be nonsense. The act of tactical vomiting is well known as a Roman technique to continue their feasting, but the vomitorium as a "sickroom" is a fallacy, the vomitorium having a very different purpose indeed, as an exit from the arena.

So What's the Story?

Roman orgies were vast and extensive feasts, with courses ranging in number from three to twelve. With such a range of food and fare (not to mention drink) there was always the danger of running out of space. Many historians mention disgorging as a means to continuing the feast, Seneca being one such:

Cum ad cenandum discubuimus, alius sputa deterget, alius reliquias temulentorum subditus colligit

"When we recline at a banquet, one slave wipes up the spittle; another, situated beneath the table, collects the leavings of the drunks."

The excellent Cicero states baldly that Julius Caesar "expressed a desire to vomit after dinner" (vomere post cenam te velle dixisses), and there is evidence that he also took an emetic to alleviate his need.

That they vomited at these feasts is beyond all doubt. That they had a special place for it is dubious. That they didn't seem at all shy about it is odd to us in these enlightened days.

bluebird_is_sad says re Tactical vomit: It always amazes me that bulimia was so easily accepted as a way of life and not a disease.

I wouldn't say that a ten-course meal was a natural way of life, and of course, it was limited to the decadent rich.