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History of (not) bathing


Dva antička čoveka kupaju se u kadi

The slogan "cleanliness is half of health" is unquestioned today. However, how has the perception of hygiene changed throughout history?


In ancient times, many civilizations had public baths. Thermae, public baths in the Roman Empire, were accessible to all, regardless of social status. In addition to being a source of hygiene, public baths in ancient times were also associated with the principle of hedonism.


Even in the ancient era, many civilizations had public baths. Baths, public baths in the Roman Empire, were accessible to all, regardless of social status. In addition to being a source of hygiene, public baths in ancient times were also associated with the principle of hedonism.


Rimska terma - javna antička kupatila

"Thermae" - public baths in ancient Rome


Already in the 4th and 5th centuries, attitudes toward hygiene began to change. The Christian Church started prohibiting public baths, especially those where men and women bathed together. Nevertheless, regular bathing and personal hygiene were still promoted.


The next shift involved determining what was allowed or considered sinful. The Church initially prohibited bathing without clothing, propagating the idea that bathing was immoral and promiscuous, indulging in impure passions.


As bathing became immoral, the Church believed it could lead to various diseases, even death. A 16th-century study described bathing as a process where the body heats up, pores expand, weakening the body and creating conditions for the transmission of diseases that could result in death.


In a certain historical period, lower-class individuals focused on minimal hygiene—only washing the face, rinsing the mouth, and washing hands. Even face washing was infrequent due to fears of water contact with the eyes causing damage or cataracts. Higher social classes maintained slightly better hygiene, bathing around five times a year.


Hygiene varied not only across historical periods but also among social classes and different nations. In parts of present-day Russia, people bathed monthly, considered somewhat perverse behavior in Europe.


There's a story about Louis XIV and his peculiar hygiene regimen. Doctors advised him to bathe infrequently to preserve his health, leading him to bathe only twice in his lifetime. This tale is accompanied by the unpleasant odor attributed to this ruler.


Lui XIV, Francuski kralj "Sunca" koji je poznat i po svojoj (ne)higijeni.

In a similar manner, Spanish Queen Isabella I maintained hygiene, reportedly bathing only at birth and on her wedding day. In the Middle Ages, many aristocratic rulers replaced bathing with perfuming to mask the unpleasant odor caused by lack of bathing. Male aristocrats concealed their unpleasant scent by carrying sachets of fragrant herbs between clothing layers, while women often used scented powders.


Hygiene in Europe returned to the level of ancient times only in the mid-19th century, after a period of absolute neglect.

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