On the Bathhouse
On the Bathhouse
We will now move away from the market and forum area to that other central institution of the Roman city, the bathhouse. We have already mentioned in passing (see chapter 1) that the bathhouse was usually near the market, as indicated in the passage from Apuleius, and as is evident from numerous excavations, including those of Tiberias and Beit Shean. This may further be seen in a passage in Exodus Rabba 15.22: … … Like unto a servant whose master said to him, “Wait for me in the marketplace.” But he did not tell him where [exactly] he should wait … , near the basilica or near the bathhouse … or near the theatre. … [His master] said to him: I sent you [to wait for me] near the entrance to the palace of the eparchos. … There is a wealth of archeological evidence from the Roman world in general and from Roman Palestine in particular on almost all aspects of the bathhouse and its activities. Nonetheless, a number of issues remain unclear, and Rabbinic sources can further clarify to them. Likewise, points of halachic obscurity may be solved by reference to contemporary literary sources and archeological findings. Apparently, the bathhouse was one of the landmarks in the market area, and the larger the city, the more bathhouses there were. We shall now take as our point of departure a brief passage in B. Shabbat 41 a (= B. Baba Batra 53b), which reads as follows: … If he bathed and did not annoint [himself] this is like water in a barrel (and not in it, i.e., the water is wasted and so too the bathing is purposeless). … A plain reading of this aphorism would seem to indicate that the process of annointing comes after bathing, and indeed the Tosafists (ad loc.) remark that “throughout the Talmud bathing precedes annointing.” So likewise in M. Sanhedrin 7.6 (in a description of idolatrous practices) we find the order: “bathes, annoints, clothes, and puts on his shoes.”
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