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The Genesis of the Roman Public Bath: Recent Approaches and Future Directions

Garrett G. Fagan
American Journal of Archaeology
Vol. 105, No. 3 (Jul., 2001), pp. 403-426
DOI: 10.2307/507363
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/507363
Page Count: 24
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The Genesis of the Roman Public Bath: Recent Approaches and Future Directions
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Abstract

The problem of the origins and early development of the Roman public bath has proven an intractable one for classical archaeologists. In the absence of hard ancient evidence, many modern propositions have been put forward to explain the process of development. In this paper, the six most influential of these approaches are presented and critiqued for their strengths and weaknesses. It is found that none is sufficient in itself to explain the appearance of the Roman-style bath but that most advance the analysis in some measure. Consideration of the often bypassed literary and epigraphic material is also included to help identify the third and second century B.C. as the crucial period in the history of this building type's evolution. Finally, it is argued that the case for Campania remains the strongest, but not (as often claimed) as the place where Roman baths exclusively evolved. Rather, Campania provided an apt context for the final appearance of an architectural genre that had demonstrable roots extending farther afield and deeper into the past. Throughout, directions for future research are suggested.

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