Roman baths were a central part of Roman social life, as well as a way for the citizens of Rome to stay healthy. Roman baths were located in almost all Roman cities; most certainly in the largest and most prominent. Far from simply being a place for people to cleanse themselves, Romans baths provided an opportunity for citizens to socialize, exercise, and unwind after a day"s or week"s work. Today, some of the larger ancient Roman baths can still be viewed at various locations; the largest and most spectacular bath can be found in Bath, England. Transportation to Bath from London is convenient, and a coach makes trips between the cities each day.
The history of the Roman bath began during the height of the Roman Empire. Ancient Roman baths served many community and social functions within Roman society. Everyone in Rome used Roman public baths, regardless of socioeconomic status. Rich folk tended to use the Roman public baths daily, while poorer folk generally visited the Roman public baths on a weekly basis. Entrance fees to the Roman bath houses were moderate, and the houses were owned and operated by the government.
Roman bath houses were a feat of engineering at the time. Drawing on natural hot springs from beneath the ground, a system of pumps brought water up and into the large pool areas, wherever springs existed. Heaters were also created to maintain warm temperatures in the baths. Although Roman bath houses were intended for use by everyone, there were separate houses designated for men and women and regulations in place to keep bathing between the sexes a major taboo.
For the most part, the history of the Roman bath reflects the idea that the baths were a community gathering place. In addition, many bathhouses also had workout equipment nearby for men to strength train with weights or toss around a discus. Men also brought and used oils after bathing, and those in the upper classes brought along servants to carry their towels, oils, and clothing. Most bath houses were quite large (some could hold up to 3,000 people at one time) and theft was always a possibility.
Although the most recent history of the Roman bath does not involve any actual bathers, tourists today can view the baths, and even have lunch or dinner overlooking the most famous bathhouse remains in the city of Bath. The bathhouses were discovered, exhumed, and somewhat restored during the reign of Queen Victoria and have been a popular spot for tourists and residents alike ever since.
The bathhouse in Rome is open daily throughout the year with extended hours during the summer. The Pump Room is the café overlooking the bathhouse where guests can sip coffee and enjoy the view. Tickets to tour the baths can be purchased online, in London, or at the bathhouse itself upon arrival. For any tourists with an interest in ancient Rome, or even the beauty of this gorgeous structure, the baths in England are a great place to stop.