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Have a great Thanksgiving! I’m thankful that you’re reading!
Among many things the ancient Romans popularized (until the Dark Ages came along) was the concept of bathing. On some level, bathing epitomized civilization for the Romans, distinguishing them from their barbarian neighbors. Though only the ancient one-percenters could afford private baths in their homes, every town worth its salt had several public bathing complexes like the one the archaeology team finds in The Five Day Dig.
When you went to the baths (afternoon, the warmest part of the day, was preferred) you began your routine in an outside exercise area called a palestra. After you worked out, you moved on to the changing room and left your toga or tunic in a locker. Bathers then chose from hot, cold and lukewarm pools. (Gotta love the tepidarium — the name for the latter.)
Floors and walls of the bathhouses were heated through hollow ceramic pipes emanating from a central wood-burning furnace — which definitely would have made them more comfortable than my bathroom on a cold January morning!
The complexes were also equipped with latrines like the multi-seat one shown here from Ostia, outside of Rome. Toilets like these were flushed continuously with rushing water below. Modern visitors tend to be shocked by the proximity of the seats to each other, but I like to think there once may have been curtains between them, which isn’t much worse than the set-up in today’s public restrooms!
Roman plumbing is a fascinating subject in itself, and there’s at least one book out focused specifically on latrines: Latrinae Et Foricae: Toilets in the Roman World by Barry Hobson.
In case anyone has been waiting for the paperback edition of The Five-Day Dig to go up on Amazon, it’s here. (Woohoo!) It should also show up on Barnes and Noble soon. (Of course, the Kindle and Nook versions have been available for a couple of weeks.)
Also, if you’re interested in the paperback but not sure you want to shell out for it (or can’t on your budget — I was unemployed for over a year, so I know what that’s like!), hop on over to Goodreads and enter to win one of three copies up for grabs: Click here.