Gehennum’s sweaty climate encourages frequent bathing. The Gehennese, making a virtue of necessity, have made their baths a luxurious social event.

In the Archaic Period public baths are springing up in rich cities, in towns in advanced regions, near gymnasiums, and at certain sanctuaries, especially those near thermal springs. Although having many advantages over the declining customs of bathing in streams and lakes, of sluicing oneself near a public fountain, and of bathing in a tub at home, these are not yet as luxurious as they will become.

In the Classical Period public baths are often vast, and gentlemen of leisure may spend their entire mornings there. The complex will include sluicing-stalls, warm baths, and a cold pool large enough to swim in. In addition there will be shops, and the services of masseurs, barbers, and valets will be available, as might refreshments and even entertainments. The more luxurious baths are expensive, perhaps even exclusive. Simpler baths, many of them old-fashioned, will serve the poorer section of the community, and the habit of bathing in streams and lakes will never completely die.

In the Decadent Period baths become larger and more luxurious. Murals, mosaics, and statuary abound. Some baths become refined, offering subtle and even esoteric pleasures. Others become lascivious, admitting women free of charge, providing titillating entertainments, or employing attendants chosen for their comeliness. The range of services available expands, as does the variety of entertainments offered.

Mixed bathing is allowed by the absence of a taboo against nudity, but families can afford the luxury prefer their women not to expose themselves to the public eye, so the simple bath-rooms in many gynekeums are still well-used. Also, certain public baths either exclude men or set aside a particular time for women, such as the early afternoon. Some baths, particularly free public baths, only admit slaves in the very early morning, but expensive baths do not bother to exclude slaves at all.

In addition to large public baths, bathing complexes may also be found in palaces, villas, and hetairons. Gradually, as public baths become more sophisticated, private baths become more common, though few city houses have room for a swimming-pool.

Copyright © 1991 by Brett Evill. All rights reserved.