A Little Bathroom Reading: The History of Bathing

Topped only by the kitchen, the bathroom is one of the most important rooms in the home. Your bathroom is the first place you go when you wake up and the last place you visit before bed. It’s a sanctuary where you cleanse your body and mind, practice personal hygiene routines, and prepare yourself for the challenging day ahead. As the most renovated and installed room in any apartment or house, you are invested in your bathroom and it will serve you well if maintained properly. Let’s examine that lovely little oasis in everyone’s home, the bathroom.

Steam Showers

These days, your bathroom may be blessed with a plethora of high-tech gadgets that keep you clean and feeling great. One of these clever inventions is the steam shower, a steam room that resembles a typical bathroom shower. Steam showers are a modern, private version of ancient steam baths, aiding in relaxation and detoxification as the humidifying steam generates water vapor around your body. Many ancient cultureshave a traditional steam room dating back centuries. For more information on steam showers, websites like http://homespaselect.com/steam-showers/ should prove helpful in your search for the ultimate bathing experience.

Ritual Purification

While the need to go to the bathroom is a universal urge that has existed since time immemorial, the earliest records describing the use of baths date back to 3000 BC. Asian citizens enjoyed cold baths, while steam baths were the norm in Europe and the Americas. At the time, water was believed to hold a powerful religious symbolism, so baths were not created solely for personal hygiene, but rather to purify the body and soul prior to stepping into a sacred area. Bathing was also regarded as a social activity, with villages featuring communal baths located in a separate area away from the living quarters. During these ancient times, washing yourself and relieving yourself were done in two different rooms, unlike your fancy modern bathroom.

Ancient Greeks

Bathing as a social, communal activity remained a vital concept throughout Ancient Greece and into the Roman Empire. The Greeks recognized the importance of bathing and constructed bath houses and pumped water into communal shower rooms. Dating back to 1700 BC, the oldest known bathtub was discovered in Crete inside the Palace of Knossos. The ceramic tub and plumbing are remarkably similar to the modern tub and plumbing setup. Alabaster tubs and a sophisticated twin plumbing system to facilitate separate hot and cold water have been found on the Aegean island of Santorini, dating back to 1500 BC.

The Roman Empire

Ancient Romans built on the pipe system pioneered by the Greeks and created expansive aqueducts that provided indoor plumbing with water, enabling the erection of thermal baths to serve as social hotspots where citizens could gather to relax, rejuvenate, and discuss the news of the day. Although wealthy families usually had their own private thermal baths, they would still visit the public baths to stay in touch with the common man. Greeks and Romans both believed that bathing was an important aspect of their lifestyles and included the symbolism of bathing and water throughout their literature.

The Middle East

The reach of the Roman Empire and its traditions spread the concept of public bathing to Northern Africa and eastern Mediterranean countries. While the West slowly lost interest in communal baths, the Middle East carried on with public baths called hammams, with the oldest found in Syria dating back to the 12th century. Once again, communal baths were a major part of society and culture, with their existence signifying a thriving city. At its height, ancient Baghdad boasted almost 60,000 hammams.

The Middle Ages

During the late medieval era, European crusaders brought the tradition of public baths back home from their travels in the Middle East and re-introduced bath houses into Western culture. Known as “stews”, public steam baths were all the rage in England during the Middle Ages and hosted a number of social activities between men and women including meeting, dining, and grooming. However, the swelling population made it increasingly difficult to find clean water and when the Bubonic Plague swept Europe, bathing fell out of favor because people believed that exposing the body to water may have been contributing to the rash of early deaths.

The 18th Century

As time marched on, the first public water supply networks were introduced in limited areas of London, England, serving wealthy families with fresh tap water on demand. Washbasins became a bedroom staple, but they were mainly used for cleansing the head and feet while enjoying social visits from friends. Around this period, doctors began to prescribe mineral water spring baths for their ailing patients, leading to the opening of a hospital in the city of Bath that offered therapeutic use of local spring water.

Modern Times

The Industrial Revolution and subsequent advances in technology and medicine eventually resulted in private bathrooms in the home becoming a reality for most people in the developed world. Full baths and half baths, en suite baths, master baths, saunas, and steam rooms have become everyday terms as you may take for granted the luxuries of modern bathrooms such as indoor plumbing, heated water, flushing toilets, ventilation, water pressure, and electricity. Although personal hygiene throughout history was not always conducted with the same rigor, today you associate the sanctity of your bathroom with privacy, luxury, comfort, and extreme sanitary conditions.