Bathing was central to Roman society. It was the pinnacle of sophisticated leisure and of cleanliness. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, even the most highranking people in European society were distinctly grubby and smelly! It would be thousands of years before anything approaching the same level of technology and importance developed anywhere in Europe. Yet Roman baths and bathing culture influenced the spas and baths that grew out of the medieval period. Today, where significant structures remain, as in Leicester city centre, Caerleon in Wales, and especially in Bath, they are once again great visitor attractions. Bath, with its restored bathhouses, is perhaps the most famous and boasts the most intact Roman system remaining in Europe. This book explores the importance of water and cleanliness to the Romans, as well as the role of the baths in Roman life and the engineering behind them. Rotherham also explains the fate of the baths since the decline of the Roman Empire. Finally, we find out what the Roman traditions and constructions have left for us today and where we can go to find out more about the way of life and the unique and fascinating history of baths and bathing.
Professor Ian D. Rotherham, an international authority on cultural and historical aspects of landscapes, is Reader in Tourism & Environmental Change at Sheffield Hallam University. He works with the BBC Radio 4 History Programme, and has appeared in and advised on many documentaries and news programmes such as Panorama and Horizon.