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Baths – place of relaxation and rest for ancient Romans

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Tunisia - Carthage
Tunisia - Carthage

The ancient Romans created a very developed culture. They conquered huge areas and where they settled, they introduced their customs. To this day, we can admire their technological achievements preserved in the form of monuments. Their greatest achievements certainly include thermal baths, also known as baths. They were a place of meetings and numerous entertainments. However, their most important function was to take care of hygiene.

Roman baths – basic information

The first Roman baths were probably founded in the 2nd century BCE. However, the building of these tabernacles became widespread in the first century BCE. It was then that they turned into huge complexes with many attractions. The most famous thermal baths are located in Rome itself. The most important monuments of this type include the baths of Agrippa, Augustus, Titus and Diocletian. The largest were the baths of Caracalla, built-in 216 CE. They could accommodate 1,500 people at the same time. It is also worth noting that baths were built throughout the empire. They could be found in cities such as Alexandria, Trier and Paris.

Roman baths were mainly built with public funds. However, this was not the only way. It also happened that wealthy personalities funded the construction of the complex. Often they were the rulers of the empire themselves, seeking the support of the crowd. Thanks to them, public complexes were created. At other times, the money was put up by wealthy aristocrats. Some of them built bathhouses for their own use. Baths were also created in legionnaires’ camps located in countless countries. Both versions were private shrines. We are more interested in the baths available to ordinary Romans.

The public Roman baths were open to all. Poor, rich, free people and slaves. They were used by men, women and children. Although you need to know that there was a division regulating the hours men, women and the sick could bathe. Baths usually opened around ten and closed around midnight. Admission to them was not free, although the fee was low. It also happened that the emperor abolished fees for some time. Of course, this decision was political. The ruler wanted to unite the people in this way.

Roman baths provided comprehensive services

The entrance to the baths was in the vestibule, i.e. the vestibule. In it, the so-called casparius worked, he was responsible for accepting payments and depositing valuables. Then it went to several rooms. These included a locker room and cold water pools. Next was a heated room to prepare visitors for the warmer temperatures. The bathhouse also had hot water pools, a wet and dry sauna, massage rooms and separate rooms for relaxation and rubbing with oils. However, this was not the only room available for guests. In large complexes, they constituted only a small part.

Roman baths were equipped with libraries and music rooms where you could listen to soothing melodies. There were also rooms prepared for debaters, speakers or poem writers. Romans who prefer physical effort also found something for themselves. There were playing fields, wrestling yards and gymnasiums in the thermal baths. Stadiums were built in the largest ones. Of course, buffets and places to play dice were not forgotten. So you can see that care was taken to ensure that there was a real entertainment centre in one complex.

The largest Roman baths were richly decorated. For example, the walls were lined with marble and decorated with paintings. There were intricate mosaics on the floors. In addition, beautiful sculptures and other decorative elements were placed in many rooms. It is also important that the baths used the latest technology. Water was provided by aqueducts, transporting it from mountain intakes. A central heating system called hypocaustum was also used. It was widely used in the 1st century BC. The heat was regulated by a bronze fan and a dome on the ceiling.

Therms as meeting places

Baths played a very important role in ancient Rome. Most of the townspeople did not have bathrooms in their homes. They could only wash their hands and feet in bowls. Thus, the baths helped to maintain hygiene. They were simply getting rid of dirt in them. However, that was not the only function. Businesses were discussed in the described places, and music and poems were listened to. The previously mentioned sports fields and stadiums provided further entertainment. In the thermal baths, you could eat, play dice and even use the services of courtesans.

The ancient baths were huge achievements of the then technology. To this day, they are the quintessence of the Roman mentality. They are also a source of inspiration for currently used solutions. An example here will be a wet sauna, more and more often built in Polish homes. It is usually made of ceramic tiles.

So you can see that the Roman culture left a lasting mark, which is constantly preserved in rooms such as the wet sauna.

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