Greece is one of the few countries in the world, along with Morocco and India, to be gifted with natural resources such as plants and herbs that cure. Kozani, in North of Greece, is known for saffron cultivation, the only such place in all of Europe. Greece is the country of olive oil, of wheat and wine, the Mediterranean trilogy, each of them with a tremendous lot of applications in cosmetics. Greece is the country where chamomile, sage, lavender, and mint grow in abundance.
Among all the wonders of Greek nature are the springs, thermal waters and the sea itself, the Mediterranean. Euripides once wrote a piece about the curing virtues of thermal and sea waters. Spring waters in Greece have been around since highest antiquity and many were considered sacred and gave way to construction of temples, like in Delphi, the Castalia spring and in Vravrona. Since the spa is the temple of the 21st century, it is only natural that thalassotherapy complexes and thermal spas are built today in exceptionally gifted places.
Hot bathing was considered an extremely healthy and refreshing experience antiquity. Athenaeus wrote at the end of the 2nd century, reports with admiration that Homer’s Heroes were all familiar with bathing, as well as with the use of olive oil for the treatment of their body. The history of bathing in ancient Greece begins from the place of the so called Gymnasium. By incorporating full washing bathing facilities into its regular program, Gymnasium created the social and architectural context for one of the earliest forms of communal bathing in ancient society and exerted a formative influence in the subsequent development of baths.
It was the Greeks, attracted by the strange phenomena of thermal springs that attempted to classify them and study their properties and effects on man. Herodotus was the first to establish the precise methods of balneotherapeutic practices, but it was Hippocrates, the most celebrated physician of antiquity, who dedicated a large section to the therapeutic properties of thermal water in his work “De aere, aquis at loci”.
He analysed its chemical and organoleptic features, described the hygienic problems of using baths in various diseases and, in general, the effects of hot and cold baths on the human body.
It is widely known that as early as the 5th century BC the beneficial properties of the sulphurous springs were already known, especially for healing skin diseases and for relieving muscular and joint pain. In the Homeric poems and in Hesiod continuous references are made to the use of baths. After the difficulties encountered in battle or long journeys, heroes welcomed the coolness or wellness of a long restorative bath. Early Greek baths were constructed near naturally occurring hot springs or volcanoes, dating back to 500 B.C.
Either the bath or simple anointing of the body generally formed part of the business of dressing for dinner. It was generally taken shortly before the δεῖπνον, or principal meal of the day. Epictetus (Diss. i. 1, 29) mentions noon as the hour, while voluptuaries bathed repeatedly.
It was the practice to take first a warm or vapour, and afterwards a cold bath, though in the time of Homer the cold bath appears to have been taken first and the warm afterwards.
The persons who bathed probably brought with them strigils, oil, and towels, or had them carried by a slave. The strigil, which was called by the Greeks στλεγγίς or ξύστρα, was usually made of iron, but sometimes also of other materials.
The socializing Ancient Greek Spas
Ancient Greeks were some of the first to make bathing not only essential for good hygiene, but also the epitome of public life. The average routine when someone attended a bathhouse in Ancient Greece involved rubbing one’s whole body with olive oil, working out in the gym until they were sweating profusely, then scraping the sweat and oil off the body. From there, Greeks would hop in the healing water and alternate between the warm pools, sauna, and cold plunge. Then, some would indulge in a massage or even a prostitute.
The Greeks kept things pretty basic—you could work out, bathe, and have a slave watch over your things until you were done. The Romans took things to the next level by adding on services for haircuts, shaves, bloodletting, surgeries, and of course, decadent food and wine. Ancient people often hung out in bathhouses for hours at a time.
Most Greek baths were filled with very healing water; the mineral water included detoxifying clay and Epsom salt.
Additionally, the Greeks infused their water with bay laurel leaves to increase circulation and reduce pain in the body. They also added lavender oil to the tubs for a relaxing, calming effect. The Greeks were also some of the first to use hot-air baths, or steam showers. The Spartans were known for loving a good-old steam bath; the rooms would be enhanced with bay laurel, fir, pine, and juniper branches for aromatherapy.
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Sources: thermalsprings.wordpress.com, allday.com