How gross is a vomitorium?

September 8, 2015

 

 

Contrary to the way the word sounds, a vomitorium is not gross at all. It’s a passageway for entering and leaving a stadium or theater. Situated below or behind a tier of seats, a vomitorium is meant to enable crowds to exit rapidly at the end of a performance. When, in The Deadliest Hate, Miriam attends the games as a guest of the Procurator of Judea, she enters the seating area through a private passageway rather than a vomitorium.

 

The word derives from the Latin verb vomo, vomere, vomui, which means to belch out, discharge, or spew forth. If you’ve ever been to a modern sports stadium, like Yankee Stadium, then you’ve walked through a vomitorium.

 

A prevalent misconception is that a vomitorium is a space the Romans used for purging during a banquet. Cicero may have launched this misconception with his story about Julius Caesar. Feeling ill during a banquet, Caesar escaped assassination by running to his bedroom rather than to the latrine, where the assassins lurked.

 

Voms as they are known today refer to the passageways actors use to mount the stage of a theater or amphitheater. The Circle in the Square in New York City is the only Broadway theater to reflect this ancient architectural design, but many others elsewhere use voms for actors to enter and leave the stage.

 

[Interested in more? Watch this two-minute video:

http://dictionary.tdf.org/voms/]

 

 

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