The Terrible Life Of The Roman Vomit Collector

Everyone knows the phrase, it's a tough job, but someone has to do it. Sometimes, though, there are jobs that just take that to the extreme. There are many gross jobs out there; just think about how many seasons "Dirty Jobs" had. But there's one historical one that might just take the cake.

Say hello to the vomit collector. That's right, a person paid to gather people's puke. As We Urbanist pointed out, you will typically find vomit collectors in theme parks. They don't actually scoop up vomit and keep it in a jar in their homes. They're tasked with cleaning up people's spew when they get sick from the roller coaster or something.

But vomit collecting is not a modern invention that came about around the time people started hurling their lunch from an amusement park ride. No, vomit collection has a rich history dating back to Roman times.

The Roman times were known for excess. Well, it was excessive for the emperors, senators, and other wealthy people that occupied the higher echelons of power. Occasionally regular people got to party too. Romans held festivals revolving around eating tons of food and overflowing wine. One of the most famous ones is the bacchanalia. According to Britannica, bacchanalias were held in celebration of the wine god Bacchus or Dionysius. The idea behind the festival is to drink, eat, and be merry — and hope the gods continue to bless the Romans with a fruitful harvest for another year.

There was so much food

The bacchanalia is not the only time Romans indulge in so much food and drink. Affluent members of society often held lavish banquets to celebrate the gods and show their wealth. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York even described the banquet as a "feast for the senses." Guests would recline and gorge themselves on mountains of food.

It was a time when the host could flaunt his riches. Scientific American wrote that one of the more known banquets was that of Trimalchio, as written in the satire "Satyricon." Trimalchio served his guests dishes like dormice rolled in honey, roasted wild boar surrounded by suckling pigs, and a rabbit with wings attached to make it look like Pegasus.

All these feasts and banquets, as well as the extravagance they showed, prompted the idea that Romans must've had rooms in which to .. .relieve themselves. The poet Seneca said, per Active History, guests often "vomit so that they may eat, and eat so that they may vomit." These vomitoriums were mentioned in the "Satyricon" and in later works referencing the Romans. But, they simply didn't exist. In truth, Romans didn't even need to leave the room to vomit.

And that is where the poor vomit collector comes in. Similar to his modern-day counterpart, the Roman vomit collector was tasked to come in and collect the receptacles full of puke. Guests just hurled to keep the party going.

They were sometimes hit by vomit

The vomit collector would have to deal with people's bodily fluids. So they not only had to collect the jars, they had to dispose of them too. said the vomit collectors had to come and clean the floors because sometimes, the guests didn't even wait for the receptacles to be changed.

Active History even mentioned that the vomit collector, unfortunately, had to dodge guests during these feasts. Their job involves them crawling around the tables to clean, and sometimes people accidentally puke on them. It's doubly unfortunate that Roman banquets and bacchanalia can last several hours, and the flow of food and drink rarely slows. No one knows precisely how much vomit collectors are paid, but whatever it is, it's not enough. And since the Romans kept slaves (remember Spartacus), vomit collectors probably weren't compensated for their dirty job.

However, vomit collectors aren't that strange in Roman society. The Conversation noted that the Romans held a lot of reverence for food and believed vomiting was an excellent way to keep healthy. Vomiting, Roman doctors said, shouldn't be done daily but can be used to purge toxins. And since the majority of Rome did not partake in constant feasting, the idea of wasting so many calories on puking was a concern. Vomit collectors knew they have job security.

Next time you think you have a gross job, be glad you're not a Roman vomit collector.