Medicine in History – Baths Of The Ancient Rome

In ancient world, there were no hospitals, no injections and other "charms" of modern life. How did people take care of themselves then? Let's talk about the medicine of Ancient Rome, or, to be more exact, Roman baths.

In III – II centuries BC there were almost no doctors in Rome. They thought that the best way to cure diseases and stay healthy was to make regular visits to baths, or therms, which is translated as "hot." In fact, it was not just a fashionable tendency, it was a real cult. They visited baths every day, some patricians could even spend most of their time there. But this is quite understandable: a bath was not just a place to clean your body, but also a club, a gym, a medical area … This was a place for washing, training, discussing, negotiating as well as painting, writing , playing music, partying and even sleeping. With no exaggeration, one could spend the whole life in a bath.

In the end of the V century AC there were almost 900 baths in Rome, serving a population of about 2 million. Any emperor who wanted to acquire his people's love built free public therms. The rich ones had their own baths, lavishly decorated and adorned with marble, expensive wood, silver and gold.

The Romans did know about how helpful and healthy the baths were. But how did they look like? We can be quite sure about what we know because we have the ruins of the Roman's best known baths, the Baths of Caracalla. Plus to this, there are numerous ancient scripts telling us how exactly the Romans spend their time there. So.

Palestre. A visit to baths started with some physical exercises. That's what palestras were used for. The exercises were not that energetic, and, as a rule, not aggressive. Some Romans did practice combat sports, at least that's what frescoes mention, but most of them preferred sprinting, swimming etc. The main idea was to warm up, limber up and to sweat.

Apodyterium, or simply a dressing room, contained cubicles, shelves and benches for the visitors to leave their clothes at. This was rather convenient, but however, they did not guarantee 100% clothes safety. Those who could afford it left their slave or a servant by their beloveds so as to look after it. Otherwise there were chances that you'd go home naked. If the clothes was stolen anyway, the only thing one could do is to turn to call upon the gods and demand justice. For this he had to write a damnation on a clay board and bring it to a temple.

Tepidarium is translated as the "warm place", the heated room used for bathing and ablution. With the help of the slaves or by themselves the Romans rubbed oil into their skin (they had no soap at the time), and then scraped it with the help of special curved metal instruments. Massage and even depilation treatments were also done here (despite the pain it caused, depilation was rather popular with Romans). After all the treatments, the washed and relaxed Romans went to swim in a warm swimming pool, and then followed to the next rooms.

Caldarium and the Hypocaust. The hottest space was called Caldarium – a spacious room with high ceiling containing hot plunge baths. The water was heated by the hypocaust, a kind of a furnace located under the Caldarium which was the source of heat for the substances. The temperatures were rather high – to prevent feet burns the Romans worn wooden sandals.

And, finally, a Frigidarium, or a cold room, which was used after the baths. Visitors could bathe, relax and enjoy the cultural program: poets, musicians, actors and dancers were there to entertain them. They could also have a snack or a drink and sleep here. In the end, tired and sometimes drunk, they returned back to the Abodyterium to get dressed and go home.

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