Roman Baths

Artist: Romans

Dates: Varies between every bath

Location: Rome, Italy

Dimensions: Varies between every bath

Medium: Stone


The Roman baths were an important part of everyday life in Ancient Rome. One of the most well-preserved baths is the Suburban bath in Pompeii. The entrance of the bath is through a long hallway that leads to a dressing room. This is where the Ancient Italian people would get undressed and hang their clothes. In this room, there were slaves that would take the people’s clothes and provide them with any services they needed. There were three different baths that were offered to the people. These three different baths were the cold bath, which was called the frigidarium, the warm bath, which was called the tepidarium, and the hot bath, which was called the caladium. A visitor would spend some time in each one of these baths before leaving. There was also a large complex called the palaestra, which was an exercise area. The Romans would exercise first and then perhaps enjoy a warm bath. After they finished, the slaves would rub oil on their bodies and scrape the dirt and oil off their skin with a strigil (a scraping instrument.) Then they would go for a swim in the cold pool. Men and women enjoyed coming to these bathes not only to get clean but to meet with friends, exercise, read, and eat. Building a bath was very complex and took great engineering skills. The water was supplied to the baths using the 640 kilometers of aqueducts–quite an impressive accomplishment. 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 kilometers away. The water flowed into a huge cistern divided into 18 separate chambers for easy maintenance with a total capacity of 10,000 cubic meters. They used iron lead pipes in order to keep the water clean. Because of the general downhill slope of the aqueducts, everything flowed by gravity, not by pumps.  The water would flow into chambers underneath the baths and would get heated at a certain temperature, depending on which bath it was intended for. Sometimes the floors of the baths would be so hot that they had to wear wooden sandals to keep their feet from burning. Outlets from each room would drain the water constantly, allowing it to then flow out to the municipal drain in the valley. The baths were decorated with elegant statues and paintings. In the famous bath in Pompeii, there are very provocative paintings in the baths. This makes archaeologist wonder if more than just bathing was happing in these baths. These are one of the most preserved paintings available to historians.

At one time there were over nine hundred baths in Ancient Rome. Small baths held about three hundred people and big ones held up to 1,500 people at one time! There were even rich people that had their own private bath in their own houses. Baths were a huge part of Ancient Roman society. The aqueducts that were created by the Romans weren’t only created to provide drinking water and fountains, but to allow people to enjoy the past-time of communal bathing.

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