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What was the purpose of roman bath? Was it the same for the poor and rich? During Ancient Rome?


the purpose of Roman baths (“balnea” or “thermae” in Latin) that have existed in Roman life since the 2nd century BC was mostly personal hygiene as Roman houses had water supplied via lead pipes, but  many houses had just a basic supply which could not hope to rival a bath complex.
Moreover local baths were also a gathering point  where  people could relax,socialise, keep clean, know the latest news and also discuss important matters and business.

As for your question about the poor and rich, we know that the first baths were privately owned and thus the poorer folk could not enter, but later baths became public and it was very cheap to use them, since by 33 BC there were 170 baths, public and private in Rome alone, so that baths were no longer a privilege for the wealthy.

A visitor, after paying his entrance fee whose amount was cheap or even free of charge, could use a cold bath (Latin “ frigidarium”= cooling-room), a warm bath (Latin “ tepidarium”= tepid bathing-room) and a hot bath (Latin, “ calidarium”= warm-room) which was more or less like a modern sauna. So, the  visitor would spend some of his time in each one before leaving. A large complex would also contain an exercise area (Latin “palaestra” or  “gymnasium”), a swimming poolas well as professional masseurs, barbers, shops, restaurants, and even libraries.
So, every day, the Romans finished work around the middle of the afternoon and went to the baths where all social classes mixed freely together: old, young, rich and poor shared the daily ritual of the baths.

In short, as an integral part of daily life in ancient Rome, the baths not only gave citizens of all classes the chance to mingle, gossip and relax, but also were viewed as fundamental to Roman civilization and an obvious example of Rome’s superiority to the rest of the world, so that the Romans built baths all over their empire.(See for example the city of Bath in Somerset, UK, that contains one of the best examples of a Roman bath complex in Europe, outside Rome and Italy.

Best regards,

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My field of expertise is Ancient Greek and Roman History.


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