Baths and Bathing in Late Antiquity
A PhD project funded by Cardiff University and the School of History, Archaeology and Religion and co-supervised by Dr. Shaun Tougher and Prof. Josef Lössl
Project student: Michal Zytka
The aim of this project is to explore different roles played by Roman baths and bathing in Late Antiquity including cultural and therapeutic functions as described in a broad range of literary sources.
The project starts with the question what baths actually were, their general functions and internal layout, their technical infrastructure, their sizes and locations within cities, towns or military camps (or indeed outside them) and similarities and differences in their functions and roles. The focus is on authors such as Vitruvius, Suetonius and Procopius and on baths at chosen locations (Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Pompeii, Bath, and military outposts in general).
There follows an analysis of hygienic and therapeutical aspects of baths based on medical writings (types of baths; properties of water in general; different types of water, natural springs and their therapeutic benefits; and predominantly, cures involving bathing). The range of authors includes Hippocrates, Galen, Oribasius, Aetius of Amida and Paul of Aegina (author of the most widely read compendium of medical knowledge, the Epitomae medicae libri VII, esp. books I-IV).
The project also considers cultural and religious aspects of baths and bathing, the bath as a centre for local and general culture; types of cultural activity encountered on the premises; links between baths and pagan cults; the place of baths in Christian society; the role of baths in the Church Fathers’ writings; and consideration of various other activities that took place in bathing establishments.
To conclude there will be an attempt to draw some comparison between ancient and modern functions and aspects of baths, and possibly a comparison between Roman baths and baths in other times and cultures (e. g. Slavic, Viking, Turkish baths). Here the concentration will lie mostly on cultural and medical aspects.