Ancient Roman bathing | Wikipedia audio article
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Ancient Roman bathing
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"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing."
Bathing played a major part in ancient Roman culture and society. It was one of the most common daily activities in Roman culture, and was practiced across a wide variety of social classes.
Though many contemporary cultures see bathing as a very private activity conducted in the home, bathing in Rome was a communal activity. While the extremely wealthy could afford bathing facilities in their homes, most people bathed in the communal baths thermae. In some ways, these resembled modern-day spas. The Romans raised bathing to a high art as they socialized in these communal baths. Communal baths were also available in temples such as The Imperial Fora. Courtship was conducted, as well as sealing business deals, as they built lavish baths on natural hot springs.
Such was the importance of baths to Romans that a catalogue of buildings in Rome from 354 AD documented 952 baths of varying sizes in the city. Although wealthy Romans might set up a bath in their town houses or in their country villas, heating a series of rooms or even a separate building especially for this purpose, and soldiers might have a bathhouse provided at their fort (as at Chesters on Hadrian's Wall, or at Bearsden fort), they still often frequented the numerous public bathhouses in the cities and towns throughout the empire.
Small bathhouses, called balneum (plural balnea), might be privately owned, while they were public in the sense that they were open to the populace for a fee. Larger baths called thermae were owned by the state and often covered several city blocks. The largest of these, the Baths of Diocletian, could hold up to 3,000 bathers. Fees for both types of baths were quite reasonable, within the budget of most free Roman males.