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Public baths originated from a communal need for cleanliness. Often the term public is misleading to some people, as they will have restrictions based upon who can use the facility — elite members of the culture, men only, religious only, etc. As societies advance, public baths often disappear as private washing stations become possible, or they become incorporated into the social system and now are 'meeting places'.

Cultures and countries

India

The earliest public baths are found in the ruins in of the Indus Valley Civilization. According to John Keay, the "Great Bath of Mohenjo Daromarker" was the size of 'a modest municipal swimming pool', complete with stairs leading down to the water at each one of its ends.Keay, John (2001), India: A History, 13-14, Grove Press, ISBN 0802137970. The bath is housed inside a larger—more elaborate—building and was used for public bathing.

Greece

In The Book of the Bath, Françoise de Bonneville wrote, "The history of public baths begins in Greece in the sixth century B.C.," where men and women washed in basins near places of exercise, physical and intellectual. Later gymnasia had indoor basins set overhead, the open maws of marble lions offering showers, and circular pools with tiers of steps for lounging. Bathing was ritualized, becoming an art -- of cleansing sands, hot water, hot air in dark vaulted "vapor baths," a cooling plunge, a rubdown with aromatic oils. Cities all over Ancient Greece honored sites where "young ephebes stood and splashed water over their bodies."

Rome

The first public thermae of 19 BC had a rotunda 25 meters across, circled by small rooms, set in a park with artificial river and pool. By AD 300 the Baths of Diocletian would cover 1.5 million square feet (140,000 m²), its soaring granite and porphry sheltering 3,000 bathers a day. Roman baths became "something like a cross between an aquacentre and a theme park," with pools, game rooms, gardens, even libraries and theatres. One of the most famous public bath sites is Aquae Sulismarker in Bath, Englandmarker.

Japan

The origin of Japanese bathing is Misogi. After Japan imported Buddhist culture, many temples had saunas, which were available for anyone to use for free.

In the Heian period, houses of prominent families, such as the families of court nobles or samurai, had baths. The bath had lost its religious significance and instead became leisure. Misogi became Gyozui, to pour water over one's head to clean his body.

In the Edo Period, saunas and Gyozui were mixed, and bathing was born. Many bathed once a month, but some bathed more than twice a day. Before the mid-1800s, when Western influence increased, nude communal bathing for men, women, and children at the local unisex public bath, or sentō, was a daily fact of life.

In contemporary times, many administrative regions require public baths to have separate facilities for males and females. Public baths using water from onsen (hot springs) are particularly popular. Towns with hot springs are destination resorts, which are visited daily by the locals and people from other, neighboring towns.

Ottoman Empire

During the Ottoman Empire public baths were widely used. The baths had both a religious and popular origin deriving from the Qur'an (ablution ritual) and the use of steamrooms by the Turks.

Britain

In the late 1790s ritual and elite baths were available, but it was not until the mid 1800s that Britain's first true public bath house was opened. The original baths were used for individual washing and men-only swimming. It was not until 1914 that family bathing was allowed.The introduction of bath houses into British culture was a response to the public's desire for increased sanitary conditions, and by 1915 most towns in Britain had at least one.

Famous baths



Public baths in different cultures



See also



References

  1. Port Cities: - Liverpool baths and wash houses timeline, 1789-1952
  2. Profit is a Dirty Word: The Development of Public Baths and Wash-houses in Britain 1847-1915 - SHEARD 13 (1): 63 - Social History of Medicine


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