Public Baths and Bathing Habits in Late Antiquity

A Study of the Evidence from Italy, North Africa and Palestine A.D. 285-700


In this book Sadi Maréchal examines the survival, transformation and eventual decline of Roman public baths and bathing habits in Italy, North Africa and Palestine during Late Antiquity. Through the analysis of archaeological remains, ancient literature, inscriptions and papyri, the continued importance of bathhouses as social hubs within the urban fabric is demonstrated, thus radically altering common misconceptions of their decline through the rise of Christianity and elite seclusion. Persistent ideas about health and hygiene, as well as perpetuating ideas of civic self-esteem, drove people to build, restore and praise these focal points of daily life when other classical buildings were left to crumble.

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Sadi Maréchal, Ph.D. (2016), Ghent University, is post-doctoral researcher in Roman archaeology of the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO). He has published articles and book chapters on baths and bathing habits in the Roman Empire.
"This book will be a welcome reference resource to scholars interested in the intersection between society and the urban built environment in the Late Antique Roman world. [...] This is a work of reference which interested academics will find to be a welcome resource for understanding Late Antique built environments. Maréchal pays strict attention to space and time and casts a very wide net for the types of data catalogued in this volume. The eight urban case studies in particular offer a comprehensive view of Late Antique cities as spaces that constantly changed alongside the needs of their residents. Maréchal keeps his readers cognizant that this study covers well-trodden ground—indeed the introduction even opens with the question ‘Why Baths Again?’—but the study’s strengths lie in the meticulous manner in which the data has been collected. By assembling data from hundreds of archaeological reports, standardizing representations of their plans, supplementing them with maps and colour photographs, and summarizing their findings in English, this volume significantly increases accessibility for non-specialist scholars to all manner of evidence for one of the most defining features of life in Late Antique cities". Douglas Whalin, Bryn Mawr Classical Review, June 2021.
List of Illustrations
 Why Baths Again?
 General Aims and Outline of the Research
 Geographical Framework
 Chronological Framework
 Methodology and Sources
 The Structure of the Book
 Notes on Terminology
 Notes on Abbreviations

1 General Introduction to Roman Baths and Earlier Research on Late Antique Baths
 General Introduction to Roman Baths and Bathing Habits
 Technology of the Baths
 The Functioning of the Heating System
 Water Management of Baths
 Popularity of Bathhouses
 Earlier Research on Late Antique Baths

2 Written Evidence of Baths
 Late Antique Literature
 Legal Documents
 Epigraphic Evidence
 Papyrological Evidence

3 Archaeological Evidence
 Archaeological Evidence of Early Hammams

4 Continuity and Change in Late Antique Public Baths and Bathing Habits
 Bath Technology
 Public Baths and Their Contexts
 Decay or Continuity of Baths and Bathing Habits

Epilogue—The Transition to the Hammams
 General Concluding Remarks and Prospects for Future Research

Appendix 1: Late Antique Inscriptions Mentioning Baths
 Inscriptions from the Italian Peninsula
 Inscriptions from North Africa
 Inscriptions from Palestina

Appendix 2: Late Antique Papyri Mentioning Baths

Appendix 3: Lists of Late Antique Baths, Possible Baths and Continued Use of Baths
 Primary Sources
 Modern Sources


 Key to the General Plans
 Baths in the Italian Peninsula, Sicily and Sardinia
 Baths in Roman North Africa
 New Construction
 Baths in Cyrenaica
 Baths in Egypt
 Ecclesiastical Baths
 Fortress Baths
 Baths in Palestina
Late Antique Archaeology
Anyone interested in the archaeology and history of public baths and bathing habits, in particular scholars and students concerned with urban transformations and societal changes during Late Antiquity.
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