Pompeii Ruins

Terme Suburbane: spa and relax in Ancient Pompeii

So far we could ascertain what a Pompeian did during a workday, having a quite varied picture: the workshop, trade and agriculture…

But, how did the people of Pompeii relax?


The cult of baths

[cml_media_alt id='4500']Apodyterium delle terme Stabiane, Pompei[/cml_media_alt]

Apodyterium in the Terme Stabiane, Pompeii: here there are some pompeians bodies cast shown

We have already seen in our previous article that pompeiians used to organize large banquets that intertwined with “ludic” moments.
One of the sacred moments of a Pompeian was having a break at the Spa. A daily ritual that can not be renounced, associated with the time of the English tea. There was a real cult of the baths in Pompeii: it was a recreational activity, considered healthy (and modern SPA are the most vivid testimony of the collection of such tradition), where the people of Pompeii went to refresh after a day of “vita activa”.


Well-being activity

The apodyterium was the first room in which access was gained. A “locker room” consisting of a low wall along the perimeter, as a sort of bench; above this a concrete heel with a series of GROOVES that served as “lockers” and where swimmers put the tunic and belongings.

Once freed of the tunic the Pompeian began what we call in the SPA “wellness program”. The thermal treatment consisted of a succession of rooms organized as follows:


Frigidarium:A hot pool (in Pompeii it was circular, in other Roman baths can be found also in rectangular shape) with cold water. The temperature was kept low thanks to small tricks: for example this room was always exposed to the north side of the Spa, covered by a dome and lit just enough to make possible the visibility but not so much to heat the water. Another stratagem used to keep water cold was the addition of snow into it.

[cml_media_alt id='4507']Frigidarium- Terme Stabiane[/cml_media_alt]

Frigidarium- Terme Stabiane


Tepidarium: It was the room dedicated to warm water bath, used to make more pleasant the impact from cold to hot water.



[cml_media_alt id='4505']Tepidarium[/cml_media_alt]


Calidarium: The area destined to hot water baths and vapors. The room, as opposed to the frigidarium, was always built on the South side in order to exploit the natural heat from the Sun. The Pompeian thermal system was the most innovative and sophisticated as far as heating systems. The calidarium was heated by hot air circulating under the floor and through the walls, called a hypocaust. The floor was made up of a layer of concrete, which rested on the suspensura, the pillars of bricks, hollow space intended for hot air circulation. This system could be completed by transporting warm air even in the walls of calidario thanks to pipes in clay called tubules. In the excavations is precisely the presence of the structures of the hypocaust (brick and suspensure tubules in the walls) that enabled archaeologists to identify calidariums, so the spas.

The baths were not only a place to relax, but also a meeting point. Here they discussed of the political life but also of the private one.

[cml_media_alt id='4502']Uno degli affreschi erotici sulle pareti delle terme[/cml_media_alt]

One of the erotic frescoes on the walls of the bath

The frescoes of sexual theme found on the walls of the rooms, moreover, clearly make us guess that between the activities that were carried out inside of the therme there was also the sexual one (free or with prostitutes to which, generally, a private and secret atmosphere room on the upper floor was reserved). There was no distinction between spaces for men and women who made the bath together and often that ended in orgiastic encounters – that, in the culture of the age, was not considered perversions at all. The hypothesis of a lupanare contiguous to the thermal activity seems confirmed by an inscription found on a wall to Porta Marina:

“Si quis hic sederit, legat hoc ante omnia: si qui futuere volet, Atticen quaereret ”

“Anyone who comes to sit here, read this announcement first of all: if he wants to fuck, shall he go to find Attice.”

Well, we could consider who left the registration like a trip advisor contributor of the antiquity.







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