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date: 15 November 2019


  • Fikret K. Yegül,
  • Paul Gendrop
  •  and Madeline McLeod


Building designed for communal bathing. The activity of communal bathing has been an important aspect of the social, hygienic and even ritual life of many cultures, and in some cases continued to be so even after the introduction of domestic plumbing in the 20th century. This article discusses three distinctive types of bath building: the Greek and Roman bathhouse, the hammam used in the Islamic lands and the Mesoamerican sweatbath.

The history of baths in antiquity begins with the Greek Gymnasium. By incorporating bathing facilities into its regular athletic programme the gymnasium created the social and architectural context for communal bathing in the Roman world. Bathing facilities in Greek gymnasia appeared in the 4th century bc. The washroom (loutron) had rows of raised marble basins supplied with cold water through lion-headed spouts. Although Vitruvius described more advanced hot-water bathing facilities in the gymnasium’s palaestra (On Architecture V.xi.2), no actual examples survive before the Imperial era. Vitruvius’ description and terminology doubtless reflect the advances in heating and bathing technology of his own day (late 1st century ...

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Encyclopaedia of Islam (Leiden, 1954–)
E. Yar Shater, ed.: Encyclopedia Iranica (London, 1986)