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Hadrian on visit to public bath

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)


The Romans appreciated the possibility of relaxing in the baths. Of course, the full pleasure of bathing could be experienced thanks to special additives such as oils or scrapers. A slave or bathman (balneator) hired for an appropriate fee could definitely make the stay more enjoyable.

But what if someone could not afford such a luxury? Back then, you could count on the help of Emperor Hadrian.

Aelius Spartanius mentions one “bathing” story. Once, Emperor Hadrian, while in a bathhouse, noticed an old veteran rubbing his back against a wall. When asked why the emperor did so, he replied that he could not afford a slave who would rub his old back with a scraper. The emperor immediately gave him money that he could use to pay for bathing. The next day it happened again, but not with one veteran, but with a whole lot of people rubbing against the walls. These men were counting on a similar grace of Hadrian, but instead of money he only advised them that since there are so many of them, let them serve one another.

Author: Piotr Petryków (translated from Polish: Jakub Jasiński)
  • Historia Augusta: Hadrian, 17.5-7
  • Lidia Winniczuk, Ludzie, zwyczaje i obyczaje starożytnej Grecji i Rzymu, Warszawa 2012.

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