The John, latrine, the crapper, or toilet. Whatever name you call it, toilets are so ingrained in our society that it is unthinkable not to have easy access to them. In this article, we will discuss the history of the toilet. We take a look at the origins of the toilet from its humblest beginnings to its modern creation.

Where Does The Name Toilet Come From?

Toilet, is a word of French origin.  It derives its name from toilette which stands for a room to dress in. This room would have all the items we still use in a bathroom today – even a pot to relieve oneself.  As a result, going to the toilette began to mean the act of relieving oneself. As this became more common, “the toilet” became the object you relieved yourself into.

Toilets In Pre-historic Times

No one has been able to pinpoint the exact period of human history that toilets were invented.  Since our ancestors were hunter/gatherer nomads, there was no need to create a permanent structure for people to relieve themselves. Most of our prehistoric forefathers, like the animals they followed, would most likely just relieve themselves in the open and move on. Archeological evidence suggests that the first permanent structures to serve as toilets were invented by the Greeks around 1700 BCE.

The Roman Empire

Due to conquering most of the known ancient world, Rome brought the common use of toilets to many places. Unlike today where going to the toilet is considered a private matter, the Romans believed that toilets were an opportune time for socializing.  Toilets were built outside in public spaces where people would be able to relieve themselves in full view of any passers-by.  Additionally, going to the toilet was a time where people would share news and gossip.  Since toilet paper was not invented, people would clean themselves using a sponge on a stick which was then rinsed in running water such as a stream or river.

Medieval and Renaissance Time

After the fall of the Roman Empire, and with the spread of Christianity, going to the toilet was considered a shameful act.  As a result, the public gatherings that were common during The Roman Empire became unpopular for more private methods that can be done hidden from plain sight.  This is where the popularity of chamber pots became used.

Chamber pots were metal pots that people would squat over to relieve themselves.  They would then dispose of the waste out the window.  This not only left the street filthy but was a primary reason for the spread of the bubonic plague.

Contrary to popular belief, it was not John Crapper who invented the flushing toilet in 1860.  The flushing toilet was invented in 1592 by Sir John Harrington.  Sir Harrington invented a commode that connected to a rope and a pipe.  When a person would pull the rope, the pipe would release water that would flush out the waste.

Modern Times

In Part Two of our article, we will discuss the modern usage and invention of the toilet.  In the meantime, if you have problems with your toilet or any other plumbing issues, please give the professionals at Conyer’s Plumbing a call for an estimate.