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Roman baths, Bath, England. 	Source: ctj71081/CC BY-SA 2.0

How Were Roman Baths Cleaned? (Video)

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Roman baths were integral to daily life, serving as communal spaces for exercise, socialization, and relaxation. These baths were architecturally diverse, ranging from small sheds to grand complexes like the imperial thermae. They typically featured a sequence of rooms including the frigidarium (cold room), tepidarium (warm room), and caldarium (hot room), often accompanied by an exercise yard and other amenities.

The maintenance and operation of these baths required considerable effort and ingenuity. Water supply systems varied depending on the location and size of the baths. Many smaller baths used wells or cisterns, while larger ones were often connected to aqueducts. Some baths were even built over natural springs, though these posed challenges such as mineral deposits that needed regular cleaning.

Heating the baths was a complex process involving furnaces, typically fueled by wood, which heated boilers to provide hot water. The hot fumes from these furnaces were channeled into hypocausts, creating underfloor heating that warmed the floors and walls. Innovations like nipple tiles and box tiles further enhanced the efficiency of heat distribution.

Despite their impressive engineering, Roman baths were not particularly clean by modern standards. Water often became contaminated due to heavy use and lack of chemical treatments. Pools were occasionally drained and refilled, but the frequency of this maintenance is uncertain. Larger baths with continuous water flow from aqueducts were somewhat cleaner, as the outflow could be used to flush latrines, contributing to better overall sanitation.

Top image: Roman baths, Bath, England.              Source: ctj71081/CC BY-SA 2.0

By Robbie Mitchell

Robbie Mitchell's picture


I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

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