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Public baths developed during the imperial Roman period as very large, beautiful, and elaborate bathing, fitness, and recreation centres. Large examples were built in Rome and in all the major cities of the empire; there were even small ones in some villages. The Thermae of Caracalla at Rome cover 11 ha, but there were nearly 1000 others in Rome in the latest period. In addition to the actual baths (seat rooms, hot wash‐rooms, cooling‐off rooms, and cold plunge baths), there were facilities for swimming sports and spectators, gymnastics and sports and games in the modern sense, massage, libraries, gardens, rest‐rooms, fountains, sculpture, and exhibitions, with shops and refreshments available nearby in the colonnades on the outside of the vast building. The afternoons of Roman citizens were often spent in the thermae.

Subjects: Archaeology.

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