Pompeii and Herculaneum

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  • Topic: Bathing, Pompeii, Pompeii: The Last Day
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  • Published : March 26, 2011
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* There were 4 public baths in Pompeii: the Stabian, the Forum, the Central and the Amphitheatre Baths. Herculaneum had 2 sets of baths: one near the centre called the Forum Baths, and the other on the marina outside the walls by the sea, known as the Suburban Baths. * Apodyterium- a change room.

Caldarium- a hot bath.
Tepidarium- a warm steam room.
Frigidarium- a cold bath.
Thermae- a bath.
* Public baths were a very social place where friends met not only to bathe, but to chat, have a massage, exercise and even have a game of dice. * The Romans usually arrived at the baths after midday. The average routine was: * Undress in the changing room leaving valuables in the care of a slave or in cubicles on shelves. They bathed in the nude, although where there was mixed bathing the men wore a brief loincloth and the women a light garment. * Exercise in the palaestra or a swim in the main pool. Ball games, bowling, fencing and wrestling were popular. * Back to the change room for a massage. Rubbed with oil then scrapped off with a strigil designed to remove oil, dirt and body sweat. * Rooms of different temperature. First the tepidarium or warm room, next the calidarium or hot room, the laconicum or sauna. After this was into the frigidarium for a cold plunge in the pool there. The female baths did not have frigidariums. * The afternoon drifted on with a rub down , the application of perfumes and oils, getting dressed, drinking to replace lost body fluids, and relaxing. * The Stabian Baths were the oldest and largest baths in Pompeii and date from 2nd century BC. The ceiling was painted blue and later turned into a frigidarium. The baths were decorated with fine Fourth style frescoes, multi coloured stucco bas reliefs, mosaic floors and marble fittings. * Herculaneum had 2 bathing complexes: the Forum Baths and the Suburban Baths. The Forum Baths were built between 30 and 10BC, and follow the standard roman design of baths. An interesting feature of these baths is the mosaic floor in the men’s and women’s dressing rooms. They had the design of a huge triton with serpents entwined around his legs and surrounded by frolicking dolphins. 5 skeletons were found in the men’s dressing room, 1 women and 4 men. The Suburban Baths of Herculaneum overlooked the sea and are very well preserved. In the entrance hall stood a statue of the Proconsul Marcus Nonius Balbus. An inscription states that Balbus restored the Basilica, gates and walls of the city, paid for the Youth Games and erected a statue of the Emperor Vespasian. These baths were luxurious with extensive use of marble. Figures of warriors in stucco relief decorated the walls and wide picture windows faced the sea. When excavated, the furnace room still had the wood stacked neatly beside it and the furnace and boiler were intact. Wooden window shutters and pieces of glass window panes remain. * The baths were central heated. Gaius Sergius Orata devised the system of heating rooms and baths. He designed a system whereby furnaces, fuelled by wood and located beneath the bathhouses, heated boilers that sent hot water in pipes to the baths. Pipes or flues under the floors that were supported on stacks of tiles forming pillars, also directed the steam from the furnaces. The hot air circulated underneath the floor heating it up.

Drinking and gambling
* The number of taverns and bars shows that drinking was a popular pastime, especially for men. * Gambling was another popular pastime, not only in taverns and bars but in other places, such as the baths. Dice games were common and there was an association of dice players. * In the Inn of Salvius there is a series of wall paintings showing customers gambling, quarrelling and then being thrown out. People gambled on the outcome of gladiator combats and cockfights.

Recreation within the family
Apart from the public places provided for recreation, the people of Pompeii...
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