Roman baths were an integral part of everyday life for this early civilization. Thermae is the term that the Romans used to describe the public bath houses. Rome was a highly advanced empire, especially compared with much of the rest of the world, and throughout the history of ancient Rome its citizenry enjoyed many benefits and leisure activities as a result. This is not to say that everyone got to enjoy the baths, or at least not as often as did the wealthy. Most affluent Romans were accompanied by at least two servants to help them bathe and generally attend to them. The baths were not only places for cleaning but also for socializing. In fact, they were some of the most prevalent venues for discourse of the day. People would pay admission, and many times worked out before cleaning and could enjoy drinks and a whole host of what we would consider spa treatments today.
At places like the Baths of Caracalla and the Baths of Diocletian (the remains of which you can visit today) one could not only enjoy a warm bath, but a hot and cold one as well. There were even steam rooms, sophisticated systems to be sure for their time. Ancient Romans could move from one room to the next, dipping back and forth between the hot and cold pools before their servants would clean them with an oil bath. Perhaps the most popular of all the Baths were those at Caracalla. You can visit the ancient baths on the Caelian Hill overlooking the Colosseum. It is a museum and as such requires an entrance fee, but it is modest to say the least. The same applies for the Baths of Diocletian.
The Baths of Caracalla were constructed between the years 212 and 216 when the Emperor Caracalla was the head of Rome. It was a massive recreational and leisure complex, one of the first of its kind to feature a public library within its walls. Spanning some 30 acres, the Baths of Caracalla contained pools, cold and hot baths, and interestingly, two gyms, where sports like boxing and wrestling were practiced.
Now when you visit Rome you have the option of exploring the ruins of this impressive early complex that was not only a public bath, but also one of the first examples of what would become more common around Rome, namely, multiple-use facilities like bath houses with libraries. The Baths of Caracalla happened to have two libraries in separate buildings, one for Latin texts, and the other for Greek texts. Baths of Caracalla tours are available to the general public, and it is well worth taking the tour for the insightful and engaging information you receive from your tour guide.
The Baths of Diocletian were undoubtedly the greatest of all the baths in the city of Rome. Diocletian dedicated the bath house in 306 and it remained in use until being sacked by the Goths in the year 537. The ruins are some of the most intriguing attractions in Rome as they are so well preserved and readily accessible for exploration by the public. If you are making plans to travel to Rome, consider making a stop at the Baths of Diocletian and the Baths of Caracalla if you want to gain a better understanding of just how innovative and important these public facilities were to Roman life.