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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The terms balnea (from Greek βαλανείον) or thermae (from Greek thermos) were the words the ancient Romans used for the buildings housing their public baths.

Most Roman cities had at least one, if not many, such buildings, which were centers of public bathing and socialization. Baths were extremely important for Romans. They went daily and stayed there for several hours. Wealthier Romans were accompanied by one or more slaves. After paying a fee, they would strip naked and wear sandals to protect their feet from heated floors. Slaves carried their masters' towels and got them drinks. Before bathing, patrons exercised. They did things such as running, mild weight-lifting, wrestling, and swimming. After exercising, servants covered their masters in oil and scraped it off with a strigil (a scraper made of wood or bone) which cleaned off the dirt.

Roman bath-houses were also provided for private villas, town houses and forts; these were also called thermae. They were supplied with water from an adjacent river or stream, or more normally, by an aqueduct. The design of baths is discussed by Vitruvius in De Architectura.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Thermae" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jan-Willem Geerinck. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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