Session organisers / Chairpersons:
Stefanie Hoss, Archäologisches Institut, Universität zu Köln (E-mail: Stefanie.Hoss@uni-koeln.de)
Bebina Milovanović, Institute of Archaeology Belgrade Serbia
Emilija Nikolić, Institute of Archaeology Belgrade Serbia
Together with amphitheatres, military bath buildings were erected near forts and in legionary camps to enable the soldiers to enjoy their favourite leisure activities. Indeed, bath buildings are vastly more common than amphitheatres in connection with military installations, regardless of whether these are situated on windy and wet Hadrian’s Wall or in the hot and dry deserts of Africa. It seems that the pleasures of a visit to the bathhouse – including the nicely decorated and warm rooms, abundance of clean and warm water plus the pleasure of meeting friends for a chat – seem to have been judged to have such an overriding importance that even the smallest forts aspired to them.
Whereas amphitheatres were also used for military parades and show fights of units against each other, bath buildings had no direct military use beyond ensuring the health and happiness of the soldiers. We can thus conclude that the regular occurrence of bath buildings near forts and in legionary camps is a sign of the central position the bathing habit had in Roman society and an indication of the importance of the soldiers as a class within that society. Both were on the rise during the 1st century AD and gained their full importance in the early 2nd century, retaining it for at least two hundred years.
But a number of issues on the social habit of bathing and the resulting buildings are still unanswered in the military sphere and this session will invite contributors to ask questions such as:
- were military baths restricted to soldiers or could all inhabitants of the legionary camp or the fort and vicus bathe there?
- was the bathhouse of a given fort or camp of a size that allowed all the soldiers of the unit to take a bath there every day or every two days? Or was the bathhouse only for a few of them?
- as these buildings are technically challenging to construct, were they built by specialists within the Roman army, a travelling ‘bath building corps’ or perhaps by civilian contractors?
- can we determine differences between military and civilian bathhouses of the same region – either in the architecture or the decoration?
- which of the countless activities recorded for non-military bath buildings in towns and cities such as eating and drinking, exercising, getting a haircut, consulting a doctor, listening to lectures or poetry readings and satisfying one’s sexual desires may have been available in military bathhouses?
- how was the location of the bathhouse determined when it was built outside a fort or inside a legionary camp – were positions chosen for easy access to water or other location advantages specific to bathhouses or were military considerations of a higher importance?
Confirmed participants for this session:
- Bebina Milovanović, Emilija Nikolić and Dragana Rogić: Body Function and Life Process of a Roman Building: Viminacium Baths
- Guillhaume Moscato: Military baths and sport on the northern frontiers
- Robert Darby, Thibaud Fournet: Military Baths and Local Adaptation: A Case Study of the Auxiliary Baths of the Cohors II Galatarum at ‘Ayn Gharandal (Arieldela), Jordan
- Ovidiu Țentea, Britta Burkhardt: Baths on the Frontiers of Roman Dacia
- Rene Ployer, Eva Steigberger: My bath is in my fort? Bath buildings in military context in Noricum and Western Pannonia
- Ioan Carol Opriș, Alexandru Rațiu and Tiberiu Potârniche: Roman military baths from Capidava (2nd – 3rd c. A.D.)
- Gabriella Fényes: Thermae Maiores – The military bath of the legio II Adiutrix in Aquincum
- Judit Pásztókai-Szeőke: Dishing the dirt on the textile tools found in Roman (military) baths.