Station: [15] Model: the Boiodurum Baths

  • Model: the Boiodurum Baths

The baths of the fort were located about 70 metres outside of its southern gate, the Porta Principalis Sinistra. The individual rooms stretch in a line; each one served a different function in the bathing ritual. On entering the baths, visitors would take off their clothes and leave them in the apodyterium. In the large public baths of major cities, these changing rooms had niches along the walls where bathers could lock away their clothes. Here in Boiodurum, they were simply hung on a hook or left on a bench. Bathers then entered the unheated part, or frigidarium. Here, they would wash in a cold water basin, or cool off after a spell in the warmer rooms. A tub of cold water probably stood in the apse of the Boiodurum baths. The cold room was followed by a warm room, or caldarium. The caldarium was heated from a room called the praefurnium, from which hot air flowed under the raised floor to serve as under floor heating. This was called a hypocaust system. Since the temperature of the floor could reach up to 50 degrees Celsius, bathers usually wore wooden shoes. Hollow clay boxes on the walls, called tubuli, warmed the entire room. There was also a hot water basin or pool in the warm room.

The tepidarium served to balance the temperature differences between the frigidarium and the caldarium. The room was heated to room temperature, and bathers lingered here to moderate the effects of the temperature extremes. At the end of a visit, bathers in the tepidarium would scrape any dirt from their skin using a tool called a strigil. After cleansing, the skin would be oiled, or the bather would take a massage. In the model in front of you, the tepidarium is replaced by a pool, which the Romans called piscina.

Similar baths, known as thermae, were found across the Roman Empire. In the city of Rome there were 11 large public baths, as well as more than 800 private ones. Thermae were an integral part of ancient Roman life. As such it is no surprise that they were built in cities across the provinces and even small towns like Boiodurum.

The ancient Romans visited the baths for more than just personal hygiene. The thermae were a place for passing time, relaxing, and socializing. Friends and business associates met in the baths. Today, Turkish hamams most closely resemble ancient Roman baths.