Bathing, Ancient Roman Style


March/April 2017

Trenches France villa block


At a construction site in Langrolay-sur-Rance, in northwestern France, archaeologists from the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research have uncovered a vast ancient Roman estate, including the remains of its well-preserved bathhouse. The large property, with its main house, gardens, colonnaded walkways, heated floors, attached stables, and stunning view across the Rance River, likely would have been the country retreat for a wealthy family from the city of Fanum Martis, some eight miles away. The most exceptional remains excavated there are those of the luxurious bathhouse that sprawls across more than 4,000 square feet. Each stage of the standard Roman bathing routine could be followed at the villa, as one proceeded from the room for undressing, to the footbaths, the cold and hot pools, the heated room called the caldarium with its hot-water bath and sauna, and finally the heated massage room and a bracing cold plunge.