Saturday, February 20, 2021

Roman Baths

The Baths at Caracalla by Lawrence Alma-Tadema
 From The Collector:

Bathing is synonymous with the Romans in a similar fashion to roads, legionaries, and togas. The Romans relished the simple enjoyment of warm clean water, a luxury compared to much of the ancient world. Some emperors had luxurious bath complexes named after them called thermae. The historian Suetonius even notes that the best time to ask emperor Vespasian for favors was immediately after his bath. 

Stereotypical Roman baths had several rooms on a central axis, which were likely passed through in the following order:

  • Apodyterium: A changing room with niches for clothes where bathers would prepare.
  • Laconicum and Sudatoria: Dry and wet sauna style rooms.
  • Destrictorium:  A room where visitors were oiled before entering the rooms of varying temperatures below.
  • Caldarium: A hot room with high humidity and a plunge bath.
  • Tepidarium: A medium heat room with a luke-warm bath for transitioning between hot and cold rooms.
  • Frigidarium: A cold room, often with a large pool.
  • Palaestra: A light exercise area.

Roman baths were used by both rich and poor citizens alike and were spread throughout the empire. By the 4th century AD, there were around 850 baths in Rome alone. Here is the story of their origin, rise, and decline. (Read more.)


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