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Roman Baths


The opulence of the Roman bath embodies the essence of a culture that thrived on ... The typical bath had a mosaic of uses and served as a community center, ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Roman Baths

Roman Baths
  • M.A. Anderson, 2006

Public Baths
  • Existed in early Egyptian palaces
  • Greeks bathing rooms in palace of Knossos from
    1700 BC.
  • The Romans developed bathing to high degree of
  • Roman baths were initially on a small scale used
    simply for cleansing after physical training
  • Balnea private baths or neighborhood baths.
  • Their popularity lead to Thermae public baths.

The Thermae Public Bath
  • Excavations at Olympia, (Hellenistic era) show
  • From modest, functional buildings, with a cold
    pool, hot slipper baths, and a steam bath, The
    thermae developed into pleasure palaces.
  • Their role expanded from one of facilitating
    cleanliness to one of making life as pleasant as
  • The opulence of the Roman bath embodies the
    essence of a culture that thrived on pleasure and

Roman Baths
  • By the early 500s A.D., there were almost 900
    baths in Rome.
  • Baths of Titus AD 81
  • Baths of Domitian AD 95
  • Trajan's Baths AD 100
  • Baths of Caracalla AD 217
  • Thermae of Diocletian capacity for 6,000 bathers

Trajan Bath House
  • Some of the thermae were large enough to
    accommodate thousands of bathers
  • Roman baths were built wherever the Romans made
  • The imperial bathing establishment was repeated
    in its essential form throughout the Roman

The Roman Bath
  • Communal bathing in public facilities was an
    essential part of Roman life.
  • It formed part of the daily routine for all
    classes in Rome.
  • Cicero the gong that announced the opening of
    the public baths each day was a sweeter sound,
    than the voices of the philosophers in their
  • Much of daily Roman life surrounded the thermae
    and a good proportion of a citizen's day would be
    spent there.

The Roman Bath
  • Providing social and recreational activities was
    a basic responsibility for Roman rulers and the
    larger baths were owned by the state.
  • They were frequently the pet projects of the
    Roman emperors, and, to ensure their popularity,
    and the emperor's notoriety, entrance fees were
    kept to the very minimum.

The Thermae
  • The thermae were all-encompassing establishments
    acting as social, recreational, and cultural
  • The typical bath had a mosaic of uses and served
    as a community center, restaurant, fitness
    center, bar, and also as a performance center,
    where a juggler, a musician, or even a
    philosopher might entertain.
  • The most likely time you would have visited is in
    the afternoon, as the Roman workday for most
    ended by noon.

Daily Routine
  • The custom was to open the bathhouses to women
    during the early part of the day and reserve it
    for men from 200 pm until closing time (usually
  • Republican bathhouses often had separate bathing
    facilities for women and men.
  • Mixed bathing is first recorded in the 1st
    century AD, but was condemned by respectable
    citizens and prohibited by the emperors Hadrian
    and Marcus Aurelius.
  • Women who were concerned about their
    respectability did not frequent the baths when
    the men were there, and the baths were an
    excellent place for prostitutes to promote their

The Water Supply
  • By the 3rd century A.D. the Romans had built many
    baths and had acquired great skill in designing
    functional, fully integrated complexes.
  • The water supply and drainage system, required
    careful planning to ensure an adequate flow to
    and from the numerous hot and cold basins.
  • It is estimated that the baths used 15-20,000
    cubic meters of water per day.
  • The baths were fed by a branch of the Aqua
    Marcia aqueduct, which brought pure water to Rome
    from springs in the hills near Subiaco, over 90
    km away.

The Distribution System
  • The water flowed into a huge cistern, divided
    into 18 separate chambers for easy maintenance
    and with a total capacity of 10,000 cu. m.
  • From here it went by gravity flow through pipes
    underneath the gardens to the main building.
  • Inside the main building a complicated
    distribution system carried the water directly to
    the cold pools or to boilers over wood fires
    where it was heated for the warm and hot baths.

The Distribution System
  • Outlets from each basin and in the floor of each
    room led to the drains, which ran below the level
    of the distribution pipes and took the waste
    water to the municipal drain in the valley.
  • Both distribution and drainage pipes were housed
    in tunnels providing easy access for inspection
    and maintenance.

Bath of Caracalla, Caldarium with floor tiles
Baths of Caracalla
  • One of the most elegant and massive Roman baths
    ever built.
  • As late as the fifth century A.D., over 200 years
    after it was built, it still was ranked as one of
    Rome's seven wonders.

Caracalla opera
The Baths of Caracalla
  • The Baths of Caracalla covered 27 acres and could
    accommodate 1,600 people at a time.
  • All would come infants and elderly, men and
    women, healthy and ill, freemen and slaves, all
    of whom often bathed naked and together.
  • If you were there at the right time, you might
    even share a bath with the emperor himself.

Caracalla palastra
  • You enter the changing room.
  • It had cubicles or shelves where you could tuck
    away your clothing and other belongings while you
  • Leaving belongings behind unprotected was a
    risk, of course, for one of the most common
    visitors to the Roman baths apparently was
  • Privately owned slaves, or one hired at the
    baths, called a capsarius, would watch your
    belongings while you enjoyed the pleasures of the

  • Soap was a rare luxury for the rich only so this
    was done instead of using soap.
  • The place where "strigiling" often took place.
  • In this room the Romans would rub oils into their
  • They would use a scraper called a strigil to
    scrape it off.
  • These were curved metal tools to wipe oil, sweat
    and dirt.
  • This might have been done by your own slave, if
    you had one, or by one who worked at the baths,
    if you could afford one.

  • A very hot and dry room like a sauna.

  • The hottest room of all projected beyond the line
    of the building to take full advantage of the
    sun's rays.
  • Hollow terracotta tubes ran inside the walls to
    provide insulation and channel hot air.
  • A very hot and steamy room, like a modern Turkish
  • The floors of these rooms where heated by the
  • There were baths of hot water sunk into the

Caldaraium Pompeii
  • At the Baths of Caracalla, the room was 115 feet
    wide and crowned with a concrete dome.
  • The hot water and steamy air were designed to
    open your pores, and water and air temperatures
    may have risen well above 100ºF, with 100
  • At the Baths of Caracalla, the caldarium
    consisted of a large hall that contained a large
    pool a little over three feet deep.
  • If you had slaves attending you, they might use a
    pouring dish called a patara to refresh you with
    cool water.

  • The system used for heating the building and the
  • The floor was raised off the ground by pillars
    and spaces were left inside the walls so that hot
    air from the furnace could circulate through
    these open areas.
  • The furnace heated the air drawn underneath the
    floor of the caldarium to heat its tiles.
  • Hot air then rose up through hollowed-out bricks
    that lined the walls before exiting through
  • Rooms requiring the most heat were placed closest
    to the furnace, whose heat could be increased by
    adding more wood.

  • Large numbers of people were, offered an
    enclosed place that was always warm. At a time
    when people had no source of heat at home, the
    baths were a place to keep warm.
  • The warm air flows through wall ducts into the
    rooms at the baths and quickly heats them.
  • In some baths the floors would be so hot that the
    bathers would have to wear wooden sandals or
    clogs to stop their feet from being burnt.
  • The fires in the basement where stocked by slaves
    of the baths.

  • Now it's time to close all the skin pores that
    have been opened. You can do this by plunging
    into the frigidarium's cold waters.
  • The dip is meant to refresh and is often the
    final bath.

Toilets / Latrines
  • Romans were far less shy about bodily functions
    than we are.
  • Acts we consider privatebathing and going to
    the toiletwere done by the Romans in public and
    without shame.
  • Some privacy was provided by the Roman's loose
    togas, since they were hiked up rather than
    pulled down.
  • Bathhouses had large public latrines, often with
    marble seats over channels whose continuous flow
    of water constituted the first flush toilets.
  • A shallow water channel in front of the seats was
    furnished with sponges attached to sticks for
    patrons to wipe themselves.

The Roman Bath
  • After their baths, patrons could stroll in the
    gardens, visit the library, watch performances of
    jugglers or acrobats, listen to a literary
    recital, or buy a snack from the many food
  • The philosopher Seneca complained that baths were
    noisy, but attractive places.
  • Many ancient writers comment on the beauty and
    luxury of the bathhouses, with their
    well-lighted, airy rooms with high vaulted
    ceilings, lovely mosaics, paintings, colored
    marble panels, and silver faucets and fittings.

Thermae The Food Court
  • The place to pick up a fast snack. Good food from
    vendors (L) and the amphora fridge for cold
    drinks (R).

  • The Baths were often adorned with dozens of
    brightly painted, often gilded statues perched
    in wall niches.
  • Floors, walls, and columns were carved from a
    rainbow assortment of colored marble imported
    from the far corners of the Empire.
  • Paint and brightly colored stucco adorned bare
    stone and walls.
  • Roofs and floors covered with glass mosaics
    glittered in the sunlight that passed through
    holes in domed chambers.