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Sunday, 29 April 2012

Roman Baths

As Roman civilisation advanced, so did bathing. The first of the famous Roman baths, supplied with water from their aqueducts, was built about 312 BC The baths were luxurious, and bathing became very popular.

Most of ancient Rome’s inhabitants visited a public bathhouse daily. The city had close to 900, including one that could cater for 1,500 bathers at a time. 

Public baths were an essential feature of Roman towns both for hygiene (only wealthiest houses had private baths) and as social centres. Frequently built soon after forum. Bathers progressed from changing room to cold room (frigidarium), to warm room, (tepidarium), to hot room (caldarium), to open pores, then back in reverse order to close them again, ending with immersion in cold plunge bath. Warm and hot rooms had underfloor heating (hypocaust) with hot air channelled from furnaces. Men and women usually bathed separately.

The Emperor Hadrian introduced bath houses to Britain in the early second century and encouraged  the locals to dip their toes. However on seeing the behaviour of those using the Huggin Hill baths in Londinium he banned mixed bathing throughout the Roman empire.


Roman baths were much more than public places to bathe. They were also social centers where families and friends came to gather together and eat snack food and drink. The Roman philosopher Seneca wrote of the noisy "cake sellers, the sausage man and confectioner" who each peddle food to hungry bath patrons.

In Roman law, balnearii were criminals who stole clothes from public baths.

Sources The Cambridge Historical Encyclopedia of Great Britain and Ireland

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