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MEDITERRANEAN BATHS

Visiting the modern Hammam in Ankara and lstanbul
Early Greek and Roman Batths
Mass Bathing in the Balnea and Thermae
The Islamic Hammam is Born
The "'Turkish Bath" Visits Europe and
America
Private Sweat Bathing Cubicles

FINNISH SAUNA

A Visit in the Dead of Winter
History of the Nordic Bath
Sauna in Europe
Sauna in Japan
Sauna in America

NATIVE AMERICAN SWEAT LODGE

Joining Running Foot in a Navajo Sweat
Lodge

A Guest at an Oglala Sun Dance Ceremony
History of Sweat Lodges
Hot Rock Sweat Lodge
Direct Fire Sweat Lodge
Sweating Without a Sweat Lodge
Origin of the Temescal
The Temescal Today
The Sweat Lodge Joins the Modern World

RUSSIAN BANIA

A Boisterous Bath in Leningrad
History of the Great Russian Bath
Bannik, the Spirit of the Bania
The Birth Bania
The Wedding Bania
The Death Bania
Health & the Bania

The Bania after the Russian Revolution
The Spreading Influence of the Russian Steam Bath

SAUNA & HEALTH

Sauna & Health
Sweating
Skin
Heating & Cooling the Inner Body
Positive Effects of Negative Ions
Spirits of the Sweat
Social Sweating

USING THE SAUNA/ SWEAT BATH

SAUNA/SWEAT SPICES

PRECAUTIONS

SPECIAL SAUNA CONCERNS FOR WOMEN

BUILD YOUR OWN

 

MEDITERRANEAN BATHS

Early Greek and Roman Baths

©1997 Mikkel Aaland All Rights Reserved

Reconstruction of an ancient Greek bath by Rene Ginouves.
From Sweat, copyright Mikkel Aaland

 

Providing social and recreational activities was a basic responsibility for early Greek and Roman rulers. As a result, baths and adjacent gymnasiums were as ubiquitous in the old world as movie theatres and gas stations are now. In the Iliad, Homer often mentions the Greek's passion for bathing.

Although there were periods when Greek bathing consisted of no more than a quick plunge in cold water, Homer and other Greek writers, tell us the Greeks favored a variety of baths, from hot water tubs to hot-air baths, or laconica. It is believed the people of Laconica, the ancient region of Greece whose capitol was Sparta, conceived the idea.

Although historical accounts are sparse, we know that hot-air baths were heated either by direct coal burning fires, or by hot rock method (which sometimes meant heating the rocks outside the hot room and transporting them inside).

2011 Update: Build Your Own Sweat

I just released a new eBook titled How to Build Your Own Sauna & Sweat. It's available for instant download ( $9.99) for the Kindle and the Nook (more formats to follow).

DRUG BATH

In the 5th century BC, when Herodotus described the vapor-drug bath of the Scythians, a nomadic tribe of the Ukraine region, he compared this primitive sweat bath to the baths of his homeland. "The Scythians take some of this hempseed, and, creeping under the felt coverings, throw it upon the red-hot stones; immediately it smokes, and gives off such a vapour as no Grecian vapour-bath can exceed."

MODERN RESEARCH

20th century excavations of a Greek bath by the Frenchman, Rene Ginouves, reveal the laconicum as an adjunct to the gymnasium. It sits between the palestra, where sporting events like the decathalon were held, and the semi-circle of the exedra, where quiet, contemplative discourse among such intellectuals as Plato and Socrates took place. The sweat rooms, according to Ginouves' study, seems to have been built in the form of a rotunda, the roof tapering off into a cone shape up to a round opening at the top. The opening could be closed by a bronze lid operated by chains. (In his study, Ginouves also devotes a great deal of time to such social aspects of Greek bathing as the bath and the rites of marriage, the rites of death and the rites of birth.)

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PLANTING SEEDS

For all their love of bathing, Grecian structures never achieved the monumental dimensions of the Roman baths. However, the Greeks did plant the seed; from their small laconica, grew the Roman balneum and finally the extravagant Roman thermae.

 

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