History books say that after the fall of Rome, 'we' lost our understanding of their technology. But aqueducts, lots of Rome's buildings etc were still standing, monasteries had washing and toilet facilities, castles and palaces were built. Why were even the rich apparently content to live in stink, sit in windy garderobes etc? - you don't need more to see what I'm getting at. In fact was this the state of 'Europe' or were there wide differences?

  • 3
    So you contend that the Royals knew how to build a huge sanitation system and didn't just to spite someone?
    – Oldcat
    Commented May 28, 2014 at 20:42

1 Answer 1


Part of the answer may rely in the fact that post-Western Roman Empire European nobles/royals were not descendants of older established noble families, but were often warlords from what Romans would have considered "barbarian" tribes. They grew up in tribal, sometimes semi-nomadic, environments where sewerage and running water were not known or considered "must-haves".

They didn't have it and didn't know they wanted it.

What I say would apply mostly to the beginning of the Middle Ages and they gradually adopted higher standards.

  • 1
    But many of the National Trust's 'great houses' up to the 19th (even 20th century) didn't have 'proper sanitation'. I remember visiting one that had little pisspots that ladies (or their maids?) could hold under their skirts.
    – Michael
    Commented May 25, 2014 at 16:14
  • Indeed, the palace of versaille was apparently covered from floor to ceiling in excrement up until the 19th century! Commented May 29, 2014 at 9:37
  • 2
    @AlanKaelBall: this is greatly exaggerated and the vast majority of stories date from the XIX century. There were what we would today call "bathrooms" (there were not enough of them and yes, some people were doing what they had to do under the stairs or behind doors), it was not that nobody was washing, etc. Compared to today's standards (in many places) it was indeed some kind of zoo but it is not as bad as described. Here is an interesting article (translated) -- in my next comment as I am short on characters.
    – WoJ
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 13:27
  • article for the comment above
    – WoJ
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 13:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.