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Artefacts – Greek Baths

August 8, 2013

There are many artefacts that link us to the ancient world but the bathtub, in my view, is a particularly good example. Cleanliness is extremely important to us but, as demonstrated through the rituals of cleansing supplicants went through before speaking with the gods, it was a corner stone of Ancient Greek society.

The Romans were also driven to be clean and in order to achieve this built amazing public bath houses for the good of society (I have some great photos of those to come). The following are pictures of ancient Greek baths that I saw at the Palaipaphos Museum. Not being an archaeologist I cannot make much comment in respect of the artefacts themselves and would appreciate anything that anyone would like to add to the notes I have made.

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This is a terracotta bath that dates from approximately the 12th – 14th century B.C. This is an important artefact as it evidences the arrival of Mycenaean Greek settlers on the island. The craftsmanship is exceptional and, although it is quite plain, it likely belonged to a noble house as only they would have had the financial means to have it made.

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The bathtub on the left is also made of terracotta but of a later design, in the photo you can make out the holes where a pole could be pushed through to carry it. On the right is a bath carved from a block of chalk the design includes a soap dish (on the left hand side of the bath). The chalk bath dates from approximately 1000 BC and would  have belonged to a rich family due to the cost of sourcing and carving it from chalk.

These baths are exceptionally well preserved and beautiful in both their simplicity and design. It is fascinating to see how a design changes very little over the course of thousands of years and indicates that it is so perfect for its purpose. Furthermore we are linked to our ancestors on a more fundamental level; that being the importance of cleanliness.

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From → Artefacts

5 Comments
  1. I saw one similar bathtub in Pylos the palace of Nestor, in southern Greece. It was a plain terracotta bath with no holes and it may have been a bit longer.

  2. Hello Pauline

    I have visited Nestor’s palace before, though it was many years ago whilst I was a Sixth Form. It is an amazing site and I remember the bath that you are taking about. I will have a look for the photo when I get home from my weekend away and upload it next week.

  3. Lovely photos, David! I had no idea that the ancient Greeks had bathtubs: a relatively simple idea that didn’t seem to catch on with their Roman neighbours. Perhaps that neat little dish was somewhere to put the sponge.

    • Thank you Ruth. I have found the picture that I referred to in my reply to Pauline above which I will post once I get the chance to scan it in. This one is built into the fabric of the building so adds another dimension to the examination of these artefacts. Four baths each from roughly the same period but all different. I find it fascinating. I like to believe that much like us the dish had multiple uses depending on the person, even so far as the relaxing glass of wine after a long day.

      I wonder if you would agree with my assessment that the Romans liked the social interactions of the public baths. I have often wondered whether the baths were not too dissimilar to modern country clubs and gyms where business is discussed whilst following leisure pursuits.

  4. Yes, that’s a good point about the social interaction – country club, gym, golf club, doing deals and catching up on gossip – none of which you could do while bathing in the privacy of your own home, of course.

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