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Thread: A Public Bath

  1. #11
      Larb is offline
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    Assuming people make the connection between unclean/unchanged water and the infection. People in general didn't have the same kind of understanding of disease back then (or until the 20th century really) and very few people would consider the possibility (The account I read about comes from someone who did). They would just blame it on the gods or something. I mean it's bathwater, surely it's fine. I'm not getting sick. And no one is dying in that other public bath a few blocks over. And he didn't get really sick until a few days later anyway so it can't be the baths. Obviously he angered one of the gods with his unvirtuous behaviour. =P

  2. #12
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    What have the Romans ever done for us, besides the aqueducts, the roads, the public education.....
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    Are public bath's the hotbed for disease? I'm not sure of the proper bathing procedure in a Roman Bath, but have to consider that Turkish bath's still exist and public bath's in Japan, today, are still very common.

    In Japan, one bathes in a shower area before you enter the tub and it is common practice if you are openly cut someplace, you don't use the public bath. The hot bath is a place to relax and soak up the heat in your body. You don't literally wash yourself in the hot tub area

    Since public bath's are still common around the world, I don't think pubic baths are the hotbed of disease you are suggesting, Larb.

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  4. #14
      Aelyn is offline
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    Both of you might have a point. Still I think that if you pay a lot of money to go to a magnificent bath house rather then the shabby small one just 'round the corner, you would expect the water to be at least fresh-looking/smelling, wouldn't you?
    I think dirty water just wouldn't fit my idea of these thermae. So I simply dictate that at least my great public bath is no major health risk to its visitors. Problem solved!
    Now that the warm fuzzy part is over we can get back to the ritual dismemberments. Oh wait, it's not Tuesday is it?

  5. #15
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    When visiting relatives in Japan, I've used a public bath in a major hotel, a small one in Osaka, since my relatives there didn't even have their own bath. I also went to a public hot spring bath. My grandmother (on my Dad's side - not Japanese) went to Japan at 75 years old and was asked to take a public bath, which she was very leary of exposing herself naked in public (she is a very heavy set woman). Once she was finally talked into it, she loved it. Then in the next town they were visiting, she discovered the public bath and went off trotting to it, without a worry.

    While unusual compared to America, where there is no such thing as a public bath - at least outside of ethnic neighborhood in large cities, I have no apprehension of using one, or fearing of getting diseased bathing in one.
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  6. #16
      Larb is offline
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    You can't really compare any sort of modern public bath to an ancient one. Today we have clean running water, chlorine and other chemicals to add to water and an excellent understanding of infection and disease so I've no fear of using a modern one either. Not changing the water for days and days on end would be unthinkable. As would bathing with sick people (who also used public roman baths) and walking through the skin scrapings of other patrons who had just cleaned their skin with olive oil and a strigil. I'm not saying every public bathhouse in Rome was like that, but some have been described by folk at the time as such.

  7. #17
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    I'm pretty sure that both Roman baths and old Japanese baths were the same. Water was changed frequently. And as stated cleansing oneself before one got in the tub is standard practice with all public baths. I'm not saying the old bath houses were as anticeptic as today, still an idea of clean water was a part of what made public baths safe even in ancient times. Roman baths had a constant influx of water through aqueducts and release of dirty water, even 2000 years ago. Its like saying a public pool is unsafe for the same reasons. I've never heard the rumor that the public bath was the source of spreading disease in any accounts from the days of the Black Plague. Sex was the primary cornerstone of disease spreading then as now, in fact there existed a Syphilis plague that killed more Europeans than any single black plague incident.

    I'm just saying public bath's were NOT the places of filth that you suggest. I've never read an account that suggested that was the case.
    Last edited by Gamerprinter; 04-09-2011 at 04:39 PM.
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  8. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gamerprinter View Post
    Are public bath's the hotbed for disease? I'm not sure of the proper bathing procedure in a Roman Bath, but have to consider that Turkish bath's still exist and public bath's in Japan, today, are still very common.
    There was no standard plan to ancient bathhouses, and many of the ruins preserved to this day appear to have been modified after their initial construction. And while the large imperial baths in Rome are laid on symmetrical plans, asymmetric bathhouses might actually have been more common. On the subject of bathing procedure, I quote Peter Connolly:

    "Roman bath buildings may vary in detail, but they have a number of characteristic features in common. They are all planned so as to allow logical progression from one room to another. [...] From [the palaestra] he would progress to the tepidarium, perhaps via the frigidarium, and then go on to the caldarium. After some time sitting in the steam and immersing himself in the hot-water plunge pools, he would scrape off the oil, along with the dirt and dead skin, using a metal implement called a strigil. [...] He would then make his way back to the frigidarium and the natatio, where he might take a cold plunge."
    - Peter Connolly: The Ancient City, pages 245 & 247

    According to the book, there were 856 small baths and 11 large imperial ones in the city of Rome alone, by the early 5th century. Needless to say, most of these baths have not been preserved to this day, and much of what is left for modern archaeologists to study is on the bigger facilities. I also wonder if there might exist a connection between Turkish and Roman baths; the Turks were originally a nomadic people who used to live in tents before they conquered and settled into the area of modern Turkey, which had been part of the Eastern Roman Empire for a millennium or so.

    Quote Originally Posted by Larb View Post
    I'm not saying every public bathhouse in Rome was like that, but some have been described by folk at the time as such.
    This interests me. Any chance for translations of such descriptions being found online?

  9. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ghostman View Post
    I also wonder if there might exist a connection between Turkish and Roman baths; the Turks were originally a nomadic people who used to live in tents before they conquered and settled into the area of modern Turkey, which had been part of the Eastern Roman Empire for a millennium or so.
    The book I read has a chapter on Turkish baths, stating that they were highly influenced by Roman bath architecture and are the most faithful accounts still preserved today of what going to a Roman bath might have been like. It says that they were so important because washing has a religious meaning in Islam. It names a bath in Bursa (called Incirli Hamam) as a very good example of Roman ideas meeting Turkish standards.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ghostman View Post
    This interests me. Any chance for translations of such descriptions being found online?
    I have found some interesting quotes, this one being from Seneca himself (I'll quickly translate it, please forgive any mistakes):

    But once, there were only few baths, and they were very plain. Why put any decorations into something that cost only 1/4 As and was for necessity, not for enjoyment? Water wasn't refilled, and it didn't flow freshly as if it came from a hot spring. Nobody cared how clear and clean the water was.
    So it seems that by the time of Seneca, fresh water was constantly flowing through the tubs and that they were well aware of the need of having clean water. I also find very complex descriptions from a man called Papinius Statius about the marbles used in a public bath and how exquisite they were.
    Now that the warm fuzzy part is over we can get back to the ritual dismemberments. Oh wait, it's not Tuesday is it?

  10. #20
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    Thank you for that snippet Aelyn!

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