Ancient peoples were just as fond of taking a plunge into water as we are. The Romans were particularly fond of bathing and built many large public pools and baths. These pools and baths were often filled with water of different temperatures, heated either by natural hot springs or by furnaces. The Roman bather would go from one pool to the other, combining dips with exercises followed by massages with fine oils.
Some Roman bathhouses also contained libraries, sports facilities, and shops. Public baths were social gathering places where people could meet, gossip, and even do business. The largest public bath in Rome is credited as the main achievement of its builder, the emperor Caracalla, who ruled in the A.D. 200s.
The Romans built baths wherever they settled. One such place in England, which had natural hot springs, became known as the city of Bath (top). People enjoyed its refreshing waters long after the Romans left England. Today public baths are used as neighborhood gathering places and are extremely popular throughout Japan. There is also a very ornate public bath in Moscow, the capital of Russia, and in Budapest, Hungary (below). In the United States, outdoor and indoor public swimming pools provide the same enjoyment and recreation the ancient Romans knew.