|Venetian Pool Coral Gables, Florida|
The practice of traveling to hot or cold springs in hopes of effecting a cure of some ailment dates back to pre-historic times. Many people around the world believed that bathing in a particular spring, well, or river resulted in physical and spiritual purification.
Some of the earliest descriptions of western bathing practices come to us from Greece. The Greeks began bathing ideals that have formed the foundation for our modern spa procedures. They used small bathtubs, wash basins, and foot baths for personal cleanliness. The earliest record of these baths are in the palace complex at Knossos, Crete, and the luxurious alabaster bathtubs excavated in Akrotiri, Santorini. The Greeks established public baths and showers within their gymnasium complexes for relaxation and personal hygiene.
In Greek mythology we find that certain natural springs or tidal pools were supposedly blessed by the gods and were able to cure diseases and ailments. Along with their bathing facilities within the cities the Greeks created elaborate baths at these sacred water locations in order to make submersion in these waters an enjoyable and comfortable experience.
The Romans took the bathing practices of the Greeks and created an art form. The Roman baths became centers for recreational and social activities in Roman communities. Some bath complexes became meeting places and focal points of the community. Libraries, lecture halls, gymnasiums, and formal gardens became part of some bath complexes. The Romans had learned that they could use the hot thermal waters to relieve their suffering from rheumatism, arthritis, and overindulgence in food and drink.