The Bathhouses of Pompeii

Before the area’s destructive end, Pompeii was a flourishing city with certain habits, customs, and traditions. By discovering leftover artefacts and buildings of this ancient city, archaeologists have been able to shape the life of the city. Giving us a better understanding of the people who once lived in it. One of the main recurring structures discovered was the public bathhouses of Pompeii.

Why were the Bathhouses in Pompeii?

The Public bathhouses of Pompeii played a major part in the city’s culture and society. It was a communal activity in ancient Roman as all levels of social classes visited these baths. This was because only the wealthiest families could afford to build their own bathroom. In the entire city, there have only been a few private baths discovered, meaning the majority of the citizens visited the public baths regardless of their prosperity.

As well as a practical activity, the baths were also seen as a social activity. Unlike today, bathing was not seen as a private activity but raised it to a delicacy and social hub. Exchange gossip, play board games, courtship, and even business deals were conducted in the lavish baths. They were much like our modern-day spas, extravagantly decorated making these buildings a beautiful oasis for the citizens.

The Bathing Ritual

The bathing consisted of a series of differently heated rooms, a gym section, and an outside garden to enjoy. First visitors undressed in the changing rooms, known as the apodyterium, leaving their belongings behind as they went onwards into the baths. The first room was the cold room, also known as the frigidarium, here citizens plunged into old waters to refresh themselves before moving onto the tepidarium. This was a room with heated warm air that would prepare visitors for the shock of the hot room. The people’s body was covered with oils that were used instead of soap (which was extremely expensive then.) Next was the hot room, known as caldarium, where the visitors washed the oil off and bathed, before heading back to the cold room to finish.

Where are these Bathhouses?

Archaeologists have uncovered multiple baths within this ancient city. Today, you can wander the different rooms and marvel at the crumbling walls and fading art that cover the area. The three biggest public baths to visit are the Stabian baths, the Forum baths, and the Central Baths. If you aren’t sick of the baths after those three, venture outside the city’s walls to see the privately owned baths that have exquisite frescoes.

Check out Private Pompeii Guided Tour if you prefer to have your own guide.