Man, by observing nature and using its resources, sought in nature relief and treatment for his body pains in nature. With his experience he, very soon, realised the meaning especially of water as a natural resource. Primitive people used water instinctively, in order to wash and soften the pain from their wounds.
Thus, water was connected with the idea of life, while drought was connected with death and mental inactivity. Man, personalized water, built temples devoted to it and offered sacrifices in its name.
[item title=”Greek Mythology”]
Every time one attempts a journey to the beginning of civilization, one cannot but be moved by the magnificent fables that man made up, either to interpret or to placate nature. Greek mythology is abundant in references to life-giving water. Sometimes water is exalted as a deity and other times it is considered the source of life and energy that grants strength, cure, health and well-being. Lots of curative springs that are known today, were connected with certain deities. Goddess Artemis, protector of nature and water, was worshiped in Thermi Lesvos and in Kastalia spring, near the Delphi Oracle. In the spring Thermopiles, as we are informed by Pausanias, Hercules used to bathe and regain strength after every feat. Nymphs, who were daughters of Zeus and were called Naiades and Ydriades were the protectors of waters. They lived in fresh water and they possessed the ability of magic and prediction. the goddess of youth Ivi, bathed in the curative waters of Patras, so that she could preserve her youth, while the spring of Ypati was devoted to the goddess Aphrodite.
Myths show beliefs and analyze mindsets, attitudes and behaviors. They reflect social phenomena, reveal customs and traditions and highlight the adoration of water in Ancient Greek society.
[item title=”Homeric era“]
The importance of water in the life of the people of Antiquity accompanied every aspect of their life. From the Homeric years, records of the baths and the purgative power of water were found. Every religious ceremony, prayer, initiation, purging of the dead, presupposes washing or bathing with water. Cleansing with water is mandatory in every important moment of human life: birth, marriage, death. Homer mentions that Hector is afraid to make libations to Zeus “with unwashed hands”. In the Homer Epics we encounter testimonies for the cold and hot baths, which seem to have been a habit for both men and women. In an incident, in Iliad, Odysseus and Diomidis while returning from a night raid, after the had stolen the horses of Risos, went into the sea to relieve themselves from sweat and washed their neck and thighs. Afterwards, they went into the hot baths to bathe.
«The fourth woman carried water and enflamed a great fire under a big tripod. After a while the water began to warm and when it boiled, she sweetly combined it with cold water in the shining copper and she made me go into the bath. And she took water from the big tripod and she poured it down the head and shoulders until fatigue left my body. When she finished washing me, she applied fragranced oil on my body (…)» (Od. Κ’358-364)
[item title=”Ancient Greece”]
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.
[item title=”Roman era”]
The love of the Greeks baths inherited and developed by the Romans. The Romans were true lovers of baths and bathing was for them social obligation and non- swimmers punished . Famous were the public baths , were called thermae , which were used in personal hygiene and in socializing . Important role in the reconstruction of the baths and the development of spa and played limited progress in plumbing water systems . The Roman baths in every corner of the empire was huge and luxurious and worked among others as areas of communication and entertainment. In the hydro-therapeutic field know that many Greek physicians in Rome dealt with the hot baths. One of them was also the Greek philosopher and physician Galen . Today in the Greek area preserved Roman baths in Philippi Kavala in ancient Olympia, Mytilene, etc.
[item title=”Byzantine era”]
The baths were a prominent feature of urban life in the Byzantine period . Apart from their main function as places of body cleansing , baths were also centers of social life and meeting and entertainment venues where the Byzantines spent a large part of their day . There, city dwellers , especially women who had not many opportunities for public appearances , had the opportunity to enjoy a swim , meet friends and learn about a variety of issues. The baths were operating all days of the week and visited by people of each sex , age and social class. The use of spas limited by the 7th century AD because of population decline , water scarcity and high cost of maintenance. Some important historical events mentioned in spas and baths and from which we derive information are: Saint Helen returning from Jerusalem to Constantinople stopped for spa spas in the port of Pythias of Marmara . During her time shattered the sanctuary of Asclepius next to the hot springs and place ordered to built Gorgona vaulted baths . Justinian also rebuilt the facilities of hot springs in Bursa , which was initially built by the prefect of Bithynia Pliny the Younger . Baths and hydrotherapy continued to employ the Byzantine scholars and post-Byzantine years. In summary , it is worth noting that during the Byzantine period , and despite the objections of some of the church fathers , the use of baths and hydrotherapy is an indisputable fact . Their use , however, ceased at the end of the Byzantine period and the spa was limited to common baths Islamic world. Today in the Greek area preserved Byzantine castle spa specifically to single Kaisarianis in Lagada Traianopolis Evro Therma Nigritas, Apollonia, Thessaloniki , Serres Sidirokastron and Agkistro etc.
[item title=”Modern Greece”]
Since about 1480 and onward, science began to evolve rapidly. New scientific theories came forward, new studies and practices began to be applied. In this frame, the chemism of water began to be verified and medical hydrology came into being. In Modern Times, the interest for the recording, studying and developing of the curative springs, began from Kapodistrias Government. In 1845 queen Amalia expressed her interest, on her way to balneotherapy to Kythnos and so a special bath building with marble bathtubs was built. In 1877 the curative baths of Aidipsos, which were ruined by the Turks in 1814, started being reused and the thermal city of Euvia became a major attraction for tourists. In 1925 the organisation of the curative baths of Lagadas, which were built by the military doctor Ioustinianos in 900 A.D., began, while in 1926 the development of the curative baths of Kamena Vourla began. From 1931 a more thorough research for recording the curative springs of the country started and at the same time the map of curative springs and hot baths was published by the service of foreign and exhibitions. In 1938 the administration of curative springs and exhibitions was in charge of a great research of all the mineral gushes and attributes that, until then, were unknown were noted. From about 1925 to 1950 the bathing places of Greece thrived.
In 1983 the Hellenic Association of Municipalities and Communities with Curative Springs was founded in Kamena Vourla; its goal is to study, protect and develop the curative natural resources. From Ancient Greece until today, people take care of their health with the use of the curative natural resources. The dominant Hippocrates’s belief that therapeutic treatment must take place in a pleasant and healthy environment remains unchanged through the ages. The bathing places of Greece remained, throughout time, places of treatment, recreation and meetings. Today, there is the imperative need for the visitor to develop his/her individual abilities and through the curative natural resources to cultivate his/her physical and mental health.