Ancient Roman baths: an archaeological explanation


Although the rural villas and large townhouses had private baths, bathing in the Roman world was a social activity. Even the emperors, although having their own lavish baths, could also visit the public baths. Beyond simple relaxation and cleanliness, the baths were a place to be seen, to do business and to meet – the Roman poet Martial describes how a certain Menogenes hid in the baths, excessively and falsely complimenting them. people until he meets someone who finally invited him to dinner.

The districts of the Roman cities were served by bathing complexes called Jacuzzi. These were either managed by the private sector or supported by local authorities. The number of such establishments in each city varied, as did their size and quality. Pompeii in southern Italy was home to three main baths built between the 2nd century BC and the 1st century AD. While the colony of Timgad in North Africa had only half the population of Pompeii, it numbered eight Jacuzzi. The city of Rome is said to have more than 800.

Bathing involved more than wallowing in a pool. Many complexes have been designed to allow the visitor to progress through the stages of a purification ritual based on the medical knowledge of the time. This included people moving through rooms and pools going from cold to hot to hot and then ending with outdoor exercise.

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