Why The Past Smelled Absolutely Horrible

 It's time to face facts: people are disgusting. It's not that you are a lazy or unhygienic person, it's just that the human body is a garbage and nothing can be done about it. As gross as our bodies are now, they were worse throughout history, which means the past smelled a lot worse. If you went back in time, you wouldn't be friends with George Washington or party with Marie Antoinette at Versailles. You'll turn away from the smell (and probably kill everyone with all your modern bacteria). Take, for example.

If you had to pick the smelliest place in time, it would be Ancient Rome. The place was absolutely filthy, and xylospongium, a sponge on a stick that was used to clean one's genitals until toilet paper was invented, was no help. As if that wasn't irritating enough, everyone in town shared the same stick, and it wasn't cleaned so much as it was left to rest in a bowl of (quickly dirty) water. If you're looking for an easy way to spread disease, this is it.

Before the Black Death, a plague that killed 60% of Europe's population in the 14th century, many people went to public baths or baths to bathe. However, once friends and loved ones started contracting syphilis and tuberculosis and what not, people in the Middle Ages stopped sharing water with each other. Since a medieval man would have considered a private plumbing system a form of witchcraft, this effectively meant the end of bathing. Some monks bathed only four times a year. There were dead bodies all around. This era is definitely a contender for the funniest in history.

In most period movies, royal palaces seem like the only place in the world that doesn't have stink lines, but that wasn't the case in real life. The combination of extreme wealth and the lack of indoor plumbing meant that royals had to leave their grand homes for long periods of time so that they could be cleaned, as palaces such as Versailles and Henry VIII's Hampton Court became filled with human waste and rotting food. Had happened. King Henry alone had 60 houses which he moved around to live a somewhat clean life, but it hardly mattered. The sheer number of people coming and going from these royal houses, clad in brocade without AC, means a lot of smelly armpits at any given time. In winter, the palaces smelled like smoke from fires which kept them warm. It's a smell you get used to, but it's not something you want to enjoy once you step out of a time-traveling phone booth.

After the Middle Ages, bathing was somewhat of a sensitive topic. People relaxed enough to wash their hands and faces, but everything else became quite dirty. It wasn't until the Victorian era that indoor plumbing became a thing, but even then, only the richest could afford this luxury. The working class had to choose between taking a bath or risking getting sick from not taking a bath, and most of them chose to forgo it.

Are you someone who can't stand the smell of cigar or cigarette smoke? Then 18th century Europe is not for you. Tobacco became a big thing in England in the 17th century, and within 100 years, you couldn't go to a pub or a local hot spot without being hit with the smell of smoke. Not that people liked the smell of smoke. The debate about personal space and smoking actually dates back to the 18th century, with the media calling the habit "disgusting" and many people taking up the habit of snuff for olfactory reasons. Still, it would take hundreds of years for the smell of tobacco smoke to disappear from the streets.

1 comment:

  1. and in spite of all that bacteria etc humans survived without big pharma.


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