Bathing in Public in the Roman World

Front Cover
University of Michigan Press, 2002 - History - 437 pages
For Romans, bathing was a social event. Public baths, in fact, were one of the few places where large numbers of Romans gathered daily in an informal context. They went to meet friends, drink wine, pick up sexual partners, and generally while away the idle afternoon hours. Despite the disapproval of the morally superior, the popularity of the baths endured for over a millennium and spread to every corner of the Roman world.
This book is the first to study the Roman public bathing experience primarily as a historical, social, and cultural phenomenon rather than a technological or architectural one. As a result, many issues are developed here that have to date been addressed only superficially. Fagan reconstructs what a trip to a Roman bath was like. He asks when and why the baths became popular at Rome, who built and maintained the abundant bathing establishments, and what sociological function the baths played in the Roman empire's rigidly hierarchical social order.
To throw light on these everyday topics the author deploys a wide variety of evidence, including literary allusions; the remains of the baths themselves, graffiti scribbled on bathroom walls; and, above all, formal inscriptions that throw light on the ubiquitous bathing culture.
In the course of this study Fagan challenges some widely held beliefs about baths, ranging from such broad notions of baths as palaces of public hygiene or places where the social identity of the bathers broke down, to more mundane matters such as the habitual donning of bathing costumes.
This volume will be of great interest for those studying luxury and public ostentation, municipal life, and the meaning of Roman leisure. Comparative evidence from other bathing cultures will also interest social anthropologists and historical sociologists.
Garret Fagan is Assistant Professor of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies, Pennsylvania State University.

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Fantastically informative book. Well reasoned, well laid out; the footnotes are a joy. It may seem an odd thing to say, but having so much information so thoughtfully laid out makes using the book as a research tool incredibly valuable. Compare to some other authors, whose references and footnotes are an inarticulate muddle of abbreviations and obscure french language periodicals from the 1920s, and you'll see what I mean. 

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An excellent, informative read. Fagan has a good writing style, and the subject is fascinating.


A Visit to the Baths with Martial
The Growth of the Bathing Habit
Accounting for the Popularity of Public Baths
Baths and Roman Medicine
Bath Benefactors 1 Rome
Bath Benefactors 2 Italy and the Provinces
The Physical Environment Splendor and Squalor
Nonbenefactory Texts
Greek Texts
The Spread of Public Bathing in the Italian Peninsula to ca AD 100
The Distribution of Nonimperial Baths in Rome
Parts of Baths Mentioned in the Epigraphic Sample
Index of Names

The Bathers
Epigraphic Sample
Introduction to the Epigraphic Sample
Constructional Benefactions
Nonconstructional Benefactions
Geographic Index
Index of Topics
Index of Ancient Sources
Concordance of Inscriptions

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About the author (2002)

Beverly Lewis was born in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country. She fondly recalls her growing-up years, and due to a keen interest in her mother's Plain family heritage, many of Beverly's books are set in Lancaster County.

A former schoolteacher, Bev is a member of The National League of American Pen Women—the Pikes Peak Branch—and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Her bestselling books are among the C.S. Lewis Noteworthy List Books, and both The Postcard and Annika's Secret Wish have received Silver Angel Awards. Bev and her husband have three children and make their home in Colorado.

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