Bathhouses in Roman Britain

Welcome back readers! So today we visited the impressive Roman site of Chesters. The remains are remarkably well-preserved and make for a superb outing to see Roman ruins. One of the buildings there is a bathhouse, and for those of you who don’t know or aren’t as familiar with Roman Britain as they’d like to be, the Romans built bathhouses outside almost every fort they built. As you might expect, bathhouses were among the most complex of all Roman military buildings and needed careful consideration of where they might be built. Obviously not just anyone could or would know how to build a bathhouse but the military infantry (legions) would still be expected to undertake the task, albeit under the supervision of a legionary architect. When the Romans came to Britain they brought the technology of the bathhouses with them, and the local people would continue to use them long after the Romans would leave Britain.

The apodyterium of the bathhouse in Chesters. You can the niches where patrons of the bathhouse would have left their clothes in.
The apodyterium of the bathhouse in Chesters. You can the niches where patrons of the bathhouse would have left their clothes in.
Us and the random musicians that were playing in the bathhouse
Us and the random musicians that were playing in the bathhouse

Bathhouses allowed soldiers the opportunity to bathe regularly. Oddly enough, soap wasn’t used by the Romans, instead they used oil and then scraped it off with a utensil called a strigil, a specially curved metal tool made especially for this purpose. Bathhouses consisted of my different rooms: the adoyterium, or changing room was usually the first room entered to change out of their clothes, then the frigidarium, or cold water room, was mainly used for cooling down. The tepidarium, the warm water room, was used to acclimatize the bather before they entered the full heat of the next room, which was the caldarium, or hot room. This room would have been very humid at 60 degrees Celsius and too hot to touch the floor without sandals. All of this would have been heated by the furnace and and the hypocaust system of floors that were heated by the hot gases generated from the furnace which then heated the walls of the bathhouses as well. All in all, the heating system of the bathhouses were unquestionably efficient!

Us within the bathhouse
Us within the bathhouse
Us in the niches of the apodyterium
Us in the niches of the apodyterium

2 thoughts on “Bathhouses in Roman Britain

  1. Thanks for the informative post, Rachel! Something tells me that those soldiers on the frontier would be spending a LOT more time in the caladium than the frigidarium most of the year: brrr!

    1. I would hope so, otherwise they’d be crazy! It does get rather windy here, though we have had some rather nice sunny weather recently. But I can’t speak about what it would be like during the winter!

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