The vomitorium and its purpose is one of historical architecture’s most common misconceptions. It’s said that the vomitorium was a room that neighbored Roman feasts, where guests could socially eject the contents of their stomach before returning to the feast with renewed capacity. Although this theory was not entirely based on fiction – as Romans are known to have indeed taken up habitual regurgitation, possibly as a sign of excess wealth – there’s no reason to believe there was a specific room dedicated to the practice.
The original usage of the term ‘vomitorium’ – taken from the same Latin root ‘vomere’ – in fact refers to a room that allows a large building to disgorge itself of its contents. A vomitorium, therefore, is nothing more than a corridor. Specifically, a wide, arterial corridor leading to or from a high-capacity public space such as a theatre, arena, or stadium, designed with the intention to get as many people in or out of the venue as quickly as possible. A well-designed vomitorium, for example, is essential for efficient emergency evacuation procedures, but even during day-to-day activity, the ability to move large numbers of people quickly helps with a venue’s turnover and creates a more pleasant crowd experience.