Ancient Roman Bathhouses

By:Rachael Noel

Background Information

Bathing was a common, everyday thing to do in ancient Rome. Bathing was actually introduced in Greece. They used small bathtubs, was basins, and foot baths for daily cleanliness.

How Many Rooms Were in a Bathhouse?

Most public bathhouses had 3 main rooms for bathing- the frigidarium (cold room), tempidarium (warm room), and a caldarium (hot room). There would also be an apodyteriam (in most bathhouses) where they would leave their clothes and there would be a laconium (also in most bathhouses) where after they bathed they would sweat.
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An example of inside a Roman bathhouse.

How Bathhouses Worked

The bather would start off by taking their clothes off and leaving them in the apodyteriam. They would then start the bathing process by going into the frigidtarium and going into the cold bath. They would then slowly progress to the tempidarium and and the caldarium and then go back to the tempidarium to start cooling down. They would then start to end the process by going into the laconium to sweat because they found it calming and pleasant. They would end the bathing process by sometimes getting a massage with oils and a final scraping with metal implements.

What was the main focus of bathing in bathhouses?

Th main focus was to sweat and gradually expose themselves to warmer temperatures.

Who could use the bathhouse and how much did it cost?

Both the rich and poor could use the bathhouse. The cost to use the bath was only 2 denarii (a silver coin used in Rome at the time) during the reign of Diocletian. It was even free to go to the baths during some holidays and special occasions.

What the architecture of bathhouses was like

In the bathhouse, there were separate areas for men and woman to bathe. The womans baths were smaller because more men came than woman. To get into the bathhouse, there were 3 separate entrances- one for women, one for men, and one for the slaves sense some wealthy Romans brought their slaves with them. Some other ares that they had were a courtyard (palestra) and was sometimes placed in the middle of the building with a pool but was often placed in the front for a more formal approach to the building.
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An example of a palestra at a bathhouse.

Architecture of the bathhouses part 2

You could also purchase many things at the bathhouses such as food and perfumes. There would also be a library and reading rooms. There would also sometimes be a stage for theatrical performances, empty spaces for athletic competitions, elegant floors and marble mosaics.
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An example of a marble mosaic.