Baths, those iconic places of relaxation and cleanliness in the ancient world, have a fascinating history dating back thousands of years. Since their creation in Greece, these hot public baths have evolved into the modern spas we know today. In this article, we will explore the origin of thermal baths, their evolution over time and how these ancient establishments have influenced current practices.
The Baths of Antiquity: A Greek Tradition
The history of thermal baths dates back to the 5th century BC in Athens and Olympia, as Thibaud Fournet, Research Engineer at the CNRS, tells us. The Greeks, convinced that water plays an essential role in maintaining good health, built the first Greek baths to relax athletes after their strength training. These establishments were much more than just places of cleanliness; they also encouraged sociability and exchanges between citizens, thus creating a space for leisure and relaxation.
Roman Heritage: From Baths to Empire
During the Hellenistic period, the practice of bathing gained popularity and spread across the ancient world. In the 2nd century BC, the Romans adapted and developed the Greek baths under the leadership of Marcus Vispanius Agrippa, close collaborator of the Emperor Augustus. These Roman baths, true architectural feats, quickly became an essential place in daily life.
Initially reserved for the wealthy classes of the Roman Republic, the thermal baths were gradually democratized to accommodate the entire population. Today, numerous ruins bear witness to the spread of these establishments throughout the Mediterranean basin.
The Thermal Baths from Yesterday to Today
Ancient baths thrived for centuries, providing ancient civilizations with an essential means of relaxation and well-being. However, as the Roman Empire declined, these establishments fell into obscurity.
However, the idea of thermal baths never really disappeared. Over the centuries, hot public bathing practices have evolved, but the objective of providing a space for care and relaxation has remained unchanged. Today, these places are more commonly called "spas". The modern era has seen a new craze for wellness emerge, and spas have become popular destinations to escape the stresses of everyday life.
The Swimsuit: A Timeless Evolution
During this fascinating epic of the thermal baths, the clothes worn by the bathers also underwent a notable evolution. In ancient times, bathers did not use swimsuits as we know them today. They generally bathed naked, because bodily modesty was not as marked as in modern times.
However, with changing social norms and customs, swimwear has become a necessity. Nowadays, we go to spas and wellness centers in swimsuits, comfortable and adapted to these environments.
Ancient baths, with their rich heritage and influence on modern practices, continue to fascinate us. From modest Greek baths to grandiose Roman baths, these establishments have survived the ages, testifying to the importance of well-being in human society.
Today, spas have become oases of relaxation and treatment, offering men a well-deserved moment of escape in a swimsuit. This age-old tradition continues through the ages, reminding us that the art of relaxing in company is a timeless treasure.
author: Pauline TACCINI