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Baths and bathing

century social fall roman

Baths and bathing, historically, primarily religious, social, or pleasurable functions more often than hygienic ones. The Egyptians, Assyrians, and Greeks all used baths, but the Romans developed bathing as a central social habit, constructing elaborate public buildings, often ornately decorated and of enormous size. A Roman bath contained several rooms for disrobing, exercise, and entertainment, as well as bathing. Men and women bathed at separate times, except for one brief period in the 1st century A.D. The baths were tended by slaves. After the fall of the Roman Empire bathing declined in popularity in Europe, though it did survive as a part of monastic routine, in Jewish ritual, and in Muslim countries. In Russia and Turkey the steam bath became popular. The crusaders brought steam bathing back with them from the Middle East, but an association with immorality caused it to fall into disrepute. In the 18th century it became fashionable to spend a season at a watering- place, such as Bath, England, but only 19th-century research into hygiene made a virtue of bathing, often with primitive and usually portable cold baths at schools and institutions. Only after World War I did plumbing and bathtub production allow the bath to become a permanent installation in the home.

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