Already known by the acronym
, the first spas in Rome appeared in the 1st century BC, even if the wealthiest families had made a habit, originally Greek, of building a bathroom in their private homes since the 3rd century.
In Rome, with time, more and more thermal baths began to be built.
The baths could be private, run by profit-making managers, or public, entrusted to the management of an individual but with guaranteed free access to the facilities, with pre-established tariffs for individual services. The public facilities were initially characterised by great promiscuity, so much so that in the age of Hadrian, separate access for women and men was introduced: morning for the former, afternoon or evening for the latter.
Though installation of a bathroom for personal hygiene was a concept taken from Greek culture, the Romans were the first to associate the thermal baths with sports activities and the cleanliness of bodies with their well-being. It was also common use to build areas dedicated to sports activities in the spa facilities, such as gymnastics rooms or playing fields , which were usually accessed from a portico which overlooked, in larger complexes, even libraries and reading rooms.
In fact, the physical culture was associated with intellectual curiosity, and this was where the greatness of the ancient Romans lay. Mens sana in corpore sano is a concept made explicit by Juvenal that can still be defined as contemporary even today.