The History of The Spa

The History of The Spa

Although you may know Hippocrates as the Father of Medicine, you may not have known he is also the first known spokesperson for the modern hot tub. He was the first person we know of to propose that there could be health benefits to the use of water therapy by means of the spa. Hippocrates recommended our lifestyle should include vigorous exercise, and bathing as part of a balanced health program. If he were alive today he would most likely be very comfortable selling memberships to health clubs.

It was this influence of the Greeks that caused the Romans to build thermal baths at mineral and natural hot springs. Used for both the recuperation of the injured and recreation centers. Although the Greeks stressed exercise combined with the bath, the Romans felt that the baths themselves were more important than gymnasiums. The Greek custom of the Greeks partaking of the spa after a strenuous workout, the Romans preferred to skip the workout and focus on the relaxation, medical therapy and social aspects of the bath. I like to think that the reason the Romans lasted as long as they did was because of they placed such importance on the spa.

More than just coming clean, the Romans made the spa experience a part of their society for medical treatment, worship and social gathering. Asclepiades, a Greek physician who worked in Rome, prescribed hydrotherapy for both therapeutic and preventive options. Pliny The Elder (23-79AD) and Galen (131-201AD) also attributed balanced health to "Taking the Waters." Galen preferred cold water in his treatment of diseases so as Americans we would consider his therapy sessions, "fun impaired."

From Rome we have three separate types of bath. Baths at home (balnea), Private Baths (balnea privata), and state funded public baths (balnea publica). The aqueducts provided enough water so that every person in Rome could use 1400 liters per day. In its heyday, the Roman bath culture had spa facilities with the capacity to serve thousands of patrons.

This focus of the bath was such an important part of the Roman society that everywhere the legions went that built their own in every land they conquered. Europe has many examples left as a testimony to the value they placed on water treatment.

Occasionally the Romans became more focused on the bath for relaxation and pleasure. Not that enjoying yourself is a bad thing. However history has shown that if you do not get out of the spa once in a while to take care of business, you will most likely loose your empire.


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