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Visiting the modern Hammam in Ankara and lstanbul
NATIVE AMERICAN SWEAT LODGE
Joining Running Foot in a Navajo Sweat
A Boisterous Bath in Leningrad
SAUNA & HEALTH
Early Greek and Roman Baths
©1997 Mikkel Aaland All Rights Reserved
Reconstruction of an ancient Greek bath by Rene Ginouves.
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.
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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.)
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.