The first prototypes of public baths, according to Herodotus, appeared even among the Scythians. After that, the tradition of building baths was adopted in ancient Greece, and then in Rome.
The origin of the bath culture in ancient Rome
Public baths began to appear in Rome from the 2nd century BC. The basis was a thermal spring around which the rest of the complex was located.
Already by the 1st century BC. the terms were a formed social institution.
Baths became the center of social life. Among other things, there were libraries, gymnasiums, pagan temples, lounges and sports games.
The baths were open every day and closed only at night. Here we met with friends, made deals, held feasts and, of course, had long conversations about philosophy and politics. The Roman Baths have become a kind of hobby club and community center.
The construction of bath complexes significantly influenced the development of medicine.
Thermal waters were found in Rome even before our era, and those whose temperature was 37 degrees were considered especially valuable and healing. Ancient Roman doctors noted the beneficial effect of thermal water on the human body, recommended to regularly visit the baths to maintain health.
Public baths were often free of charge, allowing even the poorest segments of the population to use them. And this, in turn, had a positive impact on the general picture of the health of the population of cities.
The culture of using the thermal baths
Since the baths were the centers of social life, they did not skimp on their decoration. The ceiling and walls were decorated with elaborate mosaics, statues stood along the walls, swimming pools were made of marble, and the basins were made of gold and silver. Some of the baths were decorated with hanging gardens and fountains.
The buildings amazed the imagination with the originality of architectural forms, convenience and safety. Everything was thought out to the smallest detail.
That is why it is extremely difficult to recreate the Roman bath these days. During the construction, only natural materials, precious stones, marble were used. If you use modern building materials, the unique technology of keeping heat indoors, which is based on the ability of certain materials to conduct and retain heat, will be disrupted.
A visit to the bathhouse was a long and unhurried process.
First, the visitor entered the apoditherium – a kind of dressing room. Here he could leave his things and get ready for water procedures.
To pre-heat the body, the Roman went to the tepidarium. This room warmed up to 42 degrees, and the air humidity was about 35-40%.
And only after that it was possible to go to the other two “hot” halls.
Caldarium is a hall with an air temperature of about 55 degrees and a humidity of 95-100%. It usually had a domed covering, and the floor and walls were heated with hot air. The high humidity level was created by hot water pools that were located along the walls.
Laconia is the so-called “dry” hall. The heating temperature was 80 degrees here, and the humidity was only 18%.
After the main halls, it was necessary to rest a little. For this there was a rest room – a lavarium. Frigidarium is a room intended for cooling after visiting the previous halls. There were pools with cool water, marble sun beds. As a rule, the frigidarium was the largest room of the thermal baths and was not heated.
The most significant baths of Ancient Rome
The first baths in Rome were built by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa and named after him. In the 80th year they were badly damaged by fire, but they were not only restored, but also improved. The Baths of Agrippa are mentioned in a large number of historical sources, and in the 16th century their ruins were immortalized on the canvases of Baldassare Peruzzi and Andrea Palladio.
During the reign of Emperor Titus, a vast complex of baths was built on the territory where the Golden House of Nero used to be. There is an assumption that the baths of Titus represent a restructuring of the baths that were on the territory of the Golden House earlier.
Later, the Baths of Trajan were built next to this bath complex. These baths served as prototypes for the construction of the famous complexes of the Emperor Caracalla, the official name of which is the Baths of Antoninian.
The complex occupied an area of 11 hectares. and already in the V century was considered one of the wonders of the world on an equal footing with the Egyptian pyramids.
This is one of the complexes that has survived to this day. Of course, it is no longer possible to use it for its intended purpose, but since 1937 the ruins of the thermal baths were provided to the Rome Opera House. Concerts are still held on the open stage, and the amphitheater can accommodate 20 thousand spectators.
Another famous baths, whose ruins have survived to this day, are the Baths of Diocletian.
Their construction began in 298 according to a plan similar to the baths of Caracalla and Trajan. The opening took place only in 306. The complex became the largest in Rome, its area was 13 hectares.
Now the former central hall of the complex is the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri. Another part of the halls is occupied by the National Roman Museum.
Thermal baths that are still in use
Modern Roman baths are located in the area of the provincial city of Viterbo. The famous thermal spring Bullicame is mentioned by ancient authors. The Terme dei Papi and Terma Salus-Pianta Benessere are built here.
Terme dei Papi are mineral hot springs that have been known since ancient times. In the Middle Ages, visiting them became a privilege, and only pontiffs began to visit them. Hence, the terms got their name.
Of course, the complex has undergone a large number of changes and reconstructions, but until now the healing hyperthermic waters rise from a depth of 12 kilometers to have a healing effect on the visitors of the bath. The water has a temperature of 40 to 58 degrees Celsius. It is rich in magnesium, sulfur and calcium carbonate salts.
Nearby there is a lake of volcanic origin, where there are two types of healing mud at once – gray mud and white clay, which are used in mud therapy and cosmetology.
The Baths of Fiuggi is perhaps one of the most famous active thermal spas in Italy.
In ancient times, this area housed the summer residences of Komod, Caracalla, Marcus Aurelius and Nero.
The history of this source begins with the time of Pope Boniface, who used water for healing precisely from the source of Fiuggi.
And the Tivoli baths have experienced their birth twice. First, Caesar appreciated the healing properties of water, and then, already in the Renaissance, Cardinal Ipolit d’Este again began to use these springs for treatment.
Today Terme Tivoli is a modern complex with four swimming pools, where the healing effect is not only provided by the water itself. Vapors of sulfur have an effect similar to inhalation, which has a beneficial effect on the respiratory system.
Terme di Orte is another thermal spring known since antiquity.
It is noteworthy that his water was then and now used not only for taking baths, but also for ingestion. Nowadays, on the basis of this source, a fashionable resort was built with large pools, the water temperature in which is about 30 degrees.