The Roman sponge-on-a-stick

The Romans didn’t use toilet paper.  Instead they used a sponge on a stick.  Or at least, that is my understanding.

I’m not sure what our sources are for this, but one came my way this week.  It’s from Seneca’s Letters 70, ch. 20:

20.  Nuper in ludo bestiariorum unus e Germanis, cum ad matutina spectacula pararetur, secessit ad exonerandum corpus – nullum aliud illi dabatur sine custode secretum; ibi lignum id quod ad emundanda obscena adhaerente spongia positum est totum in gulam farsit et interclusis faucibus spiritum elisit. Hoc fuit morti contumeliam facere. Ita prorsus, parum munde et parum decenter: quid est stultius quam fastidiose mori?

20.  For example, there was lately in a training-school for wild-beast gladiators a German, who was making ready for the morning exhibition; he withdrew in order to relieve himself, – the only thing which he was allowed to do in secret and without the presence of a guard. While so engaged, he seized the stick of wood, tipped with a sponge, which was devoted to the vilest uses, and stuffed it, just as it was, down his throat; thus he blocked up his windpipe, and choked the breath from his body. That was truly to insult death![1]

I wonder if they had to share a stick?

  1. [1]Latin from the Latin Library here; English taken from the Loeb translation, found here on Wikimedia Commons.