What were the bath houses in ancient Rome?

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Communal bathing in ancient Rome was a social, hygienic, and therapeutic ritual that was common among most strata of Roman society. The Romans inherited their penchant for communal bathing from the Greeks, who first prioritized this aspect of civic life. Bath houses, or facilities at which such group bathing occurred, could generally be divided into two types: balneae and thermae.

Balneae were small, utilitarian facilities existing in great quantity throughout the empire. The thermae, by contrast, were large, elaborate, state-maintained bath houses established in most Roman communities. These complexes included separate bathing areas for men and women, as well as changing rooms and gymnasiums. The largest recorded thermae, the Baths of Diocletian, could reportedly accommodate nearly 3,000 bathers. Other notable thermae included the Baths of Trajan and the Baths of Caracalla.

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