Every nation has its own traditions in the construction of baths and their uses.

As described by the Greek historian Herodotus, the baths of Scythian tribes resembled the yurt. Bound at upper ends, poles were covered with wool felt. A pot of water was then placed in the middle, and hot stones were thrown into it.

Some Indian tribes in America up to now use a sauna, which is a low conical wigwam with soil deepened inside of it and a hole for the hot stones in the middle. The stones are heated with fire, then raked into the hole and sprinkled with water. This method is widespread among the tourists and people working on expeditions (geologists, builders, etc.).

It is believed that comfortable bathhouses existed and were built in the Ancient Eastern Countries—India, China, and Egypt. China in the 17th century had "commercial stone baths with warm water, and the healers inside." Scientists say that physician Hippocrates in ancient Greece prescribed bathing procedure to half of his patients. After the conquests of Alexander the Great in ancient Greece, and later in Rome, the use of oriental-style baths with hot floors was expanded.

Bath in the Middle Ages

Public baths

"Baths, an ancient heritage of Rome, were the custom in all of medieval Europe—both private and numerous public Baths, with their steam rooms and lounges for relaxation, or with the large swimming pools crowded with both male and female nude bodies. People met here as naturally as in church, and these bathing facilities were for all classes, so they levied duties just like mills, forges and pubs. As for the wealthy homes, all of them had "soap rooms" in the basement; these were steam rooms and tubs that were usually wooden, with barrel-like hoops on them. Charles the Bold had a rare luxury: the silver bath, which was taken after him to the battlefields. After the defeat in Granson in 1476, it was found in the Duke's camp.

At the beginning of the 12th century, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali meticulously described the Muslim rules of conduct in a public bath, yet said that the bath is the place the Devil.

Survived until our days the message of Ibn Jubayr from the 12th century about the baths in the Arab world: "The Sultan’s caring of those outlanders (who came to study at madrasas of Alexandria) goes to such extents that he ordered to build a saunas so they could bathe whenever they need it. He also founded a hospital for the treatment of the ill. There are two baths in this blessed city (Mecca), and every one of them (17 quarters of Baghdad) has two or three baths. In this city (Damascus) and its suburbs, there are almost a hundred baths with about forty rooms for washing, all of which are supplied with running water."

In Europe, the city baths were not only used for their intended purpose: "In Naples, when it was nine o'clock, Katella, taking with him his servant and not betraying his intention in anything, set out to those baths... The room was very dark, what each of them was satisfied with"—-Giovanni Boccaccio, "Decameron"

Gills Fletcher wrote about the baths of the end of the XVI century in Russia: "You often see them, to strengthen the body, run out of the bath covered in soap and steaming of the heat, like a pig on a spit, and throw their naked selves to the river, or shed with cold water, even in the most severe frost."

In the XVII century, Charles Carlyle noticed that "there is no town in their country which wouldn’t have public or private baths, as it is almost universal remedy for any disease."

Russian Bath


The word banya (Sauna, Rus.) is found in written sources from the 11th century.

Types of Russian banya

Traditional Russian baths are divided into:

A bath, heated "on-black,” is made on the "five-walled house” principle; i.e., they have the bath itself and a changing room separated by a fifth wall. The door to the bath itself is usually quite small and has a high threshold, which slows the flow of cold air from the changing room. All of the baths have open fireplace, which heats not only the stones but also the walls of the bath. The smoke from the oven goes out through the partially open door and an outlet in the ceiling. Usually it has an oven made of stones and a boiler for hot water. The oven is heated by wood, preferably hardwood (e.g., birch). Improperly heated, a bath gives a bitter smell. The wood inside the bath is smoked heavily, resulting in the walls of a bath becoming dark colour, but also serves to disinfect the bath premises. Before use, it’s necessary to ventilate the bath and wash the smoke from the shelves. There is a saying that "the bath must settle," meaning that there must be some time allowed after every heating. Plus, after the end of heating, a ladle of boiling water is thrown on the stones, the door is opened and the "first steam" released, which makes the smoke less bitter. Sometimes the ceiling is swept off with a broom sweep, and, when using good wood, soot on the walls almost doesn’t settle.

Baths heated "on-white" may have different constructions. There is always a stone, brick or metal oven in such bath with a tank for heating the water. Such a bath requires more wood, but it’s much easier and more enjoyable to use. Modern individual baths also have this construction.

Baths inside the Russian oven.

The oven is heated, and water is heated in a caldron. After heating, ashes are removed from the oven’s floor and it’s inlayed with straw. Then you can wash, climbing into the oven and even carefully bathing with a broom so as not to drabble yourself in soot.

Finnish Sauna

Russian and Finnish saunas have the same roots and, despite of the common misconception about the "dry steam room," they don’t differ from each other that much (see the full article about the sauna).

Dry sauna

The name has no relation to the Finnish sauna. The dry sauna is a type of dry-air bath. Due to the low humidity, the dry sauna is better tolerated than a bath.

The Roman Baths

In the Roman baths (therme) there were a couple of rooms: first, a man would get into dressing room, which was called "apoderium”; this room was used for undressing. Then he went to the next "warm room,” which the Romans called "tepidarium,” after which followed hot and steam rooms, the temperature in which reached 85C, called "kalidrium" and "laconium." After the steam bath a man went to the cooling and aromatic room, "lavarium." The Roman baths also had libraries, sports facilities, massage rooms.

Turkish Bath

A Turkish bath (hamam) is the Turkish variant of a steam bath, sauna or Russian bath, distinguished by a focus on water, as distinct from ambient steam.

A person taking a Turkish bath first relaxes in a room (known as the warm room) that is heated by a continuous flow of hot, dry air allowing the bather to sweat freely. Bathers may then move to an even hotter room (known as the hot room) before splashing themselves with cold water. After performing a full body wash and receiving a massage, bathers finally retire to the cooling-room for a period of relaxation. for more information, see: (

The marble in the Turkish bath is heated to 45-50 °C, and the air humidity reaches up to 100%.

The Japanese Bath

Sentō is somewhat different from our conventional notion of the bath. There is no steam room as such. First, a person repeatedly wipes himself with a washcloth, pours water over himself until purely clean, then immerses in an individual or communal large wooden tub, or ofuro. There, a person is supposed to stretch out and blissfully soak in hot water. Then the whole procedure is repeated. In a real Sento there were always young maids—yuna— which not only washed and rubbed clients, but also, for a fee, could provide them with sexual services.

Sauna traditions and etiquette

People have long known the benefits of sauna. It is related both with the process of cleaning the body, and with the fact that bathing in the bath has a really useful effect, from the medical point of view (due to the structural features of human skin, which is equipped with sebaceous and sweat glands). The impact of steam and hot water and excessive sweating while bathing stimulate the excretory system of the skin and thus helps the body rid itself of toxins and dissolved impurities. In this regard, different nations of the world have their own etiquette of visiting the baths. For example, in ancient Greece it was customary going to the bath every other day, accompanied by slaves who carried with them oil, baking soda, greasy clay, linen, towels and brushes. A hot bath was enjoyed in a round tub, followed by washing in cold water.

In the village before a wedding there was a tradition when bride and the groom's mother (and, possibly other senior women of the groom's family) went together to a bath. The would-be mother in law looked how healthy the future daughter in law was. One book referred to a review of the future mother in-law: "The bone is broad. This one will give a birth to triplets without blinking!" In the countryside, where huts were heated on-black, the bath was the most sterile and suitable place for a home birth—as, by the way, there was no other place for giving birth at the time!

Additionally, from folklore it is known that after a quarrel, "spouses are best reconciled in a bath."
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