Turkish Bath Culture

22 January 2024

The history of the bath dates back to the Romans. Excavations in the city of Pompeii, which was buried under the ashes after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, revealed the baths used by the Romans. It is understood that these baths were built for cleaning, pleasure, and entertainment. Since there was a class difference in the Romans, the entrance doors and bathing places of slaves and nobles were separated in the baths.

Roman baths also had steam baths and cold and hot water pools. The Ottomans conquered Istanbul materialistically, but Byzantium, reflecting the effects of the rich heritage it inherited from Rome, defeated the Ottomans with its baths, like many other things.  In the most glorious period of the Empire, there was a bathhouse in every city neighborhood, with hot and cold baths, fountains, domed marble rooms, and open only to women on certain days of the week.

The main reason baths had such an important place in Ottoman culture was religion. According to the Qur'an, cleanliness was not an important but an "essential" part of holiness. These marble temples enabled a social life of bathing, massage, and conversation. The desire to find friendship and fortune was as crucial as health and religion. This was the only place where Ottoman women could socialize, especially those who had to live their lives behind closed doors. Even wealthy women went to the neighborhood baths at least once a week, even though they had private baths at home. Servants with towels, brushes, henna, kohl, kohl, a bar of Cretan soap, and mother-of-pearl inlaid shoes would accompany them. This ceremonial preparation was because a few hours and almost a whole day were spent in the bath.

The bath tradition, an essential representative of cleanliness, healing, entertainment, and social sharing for thousands of years, has been reinterpreted with a perspective suitable for today.