There is no doubt the water-loving spirit of Achaioi was passed down to the Greeks of the later years. In Ancient Greece, there were baths that were used for cleansing and toning and baths used for therapeutic reasons. The Spartans, disciplined way of life, made Lakedaimones bathe in the cold waters of the River Evrotas in order to be toughened. Contrary to them, the Athenians, used hot and cold bath, depending on the conditions, which they considered factors of health and culture. Macedonians preferred bathing in cold baths, as they believed that hot ones made them sloth. Alexander the Great when he found himself in front of Darios’s extremely luxurious bath wondered: “Is it possible for a person to be in charge of men when he surrounds himself with such softness and self-indulgence?”
ΤThe baths of Ancient Greece were connected with beliefs, customs and traditions, the social conditions of the time.
The most ancient bath facilities, that we know of, operated in Syvari, an ancient city of Great Greece in southern Italy in the end of the 6th century B.C. The buildings and the procedure of the bath in ancient Greek is called “balaneion”. Balaneia can be found in Athens from the 5th century B.C., but they continue to spread even during the Hellenistic years. Balaneia were public or private and were usually located near gymnasiums.
In the 6th and 5th century B.C. , the pre- Hippocrates period, medical science was practiced in the sanctuaries of Asclepius, which functioned as places of worship and as therapeutic centres. In the sanctuaries of Asclepius the therapeutic treatment was applied in three levels: general treatment for every visitor, preparatory for the treatment of patients and special for every ailment. The three most important sanctuaries of Asclepius were the one in Trikki (birth place of Asclepius), the Epidavros sanctuary and the Kos sanctuary. The Asclepius sanctuary in Epidavros is considered the eminent sanctuary for the adoration of water and hydrotherapy. The Asclepius sanctuary in Kos had tubs for hydrotherapy and fountains with abundant water. The Asclepius sanctuary in Pergamos, homeland of Galinos, was also important.
Hippocrates (460- 375 B.C.), who is considered to be the father of medical science and hydrotherapy was the firsts who systematically studied the therapeutic use of hot and cold baths and disconnected it from religion. He classifies the waters in three categories: drinking water, saline water and sea water (water drink, saline, sea). By the term “saline water” he meant the curative waters. In his works he highlighted the effect of the climate, of the morphological conditions and of nutrition on the human health. The complete works of Hippocrates for the water and the climate are undoubtedly the first clinical hydrotherapy which he passed down to the future generations. His beliefs about the climate and the therapeutic properties of the waters and the baths will provide the basis on which the science of climatotherapy and hydrotherapy formed.