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The bathhouse – Balneum

Public baths were among the basic facilities in any Roman settlement. In Vindonissa there even used to be a legionary bathhouse inside the camp, though this no longer exists. The bathhouse belonging to the civil settlement can still be accessed today.

The bathhouse is part of a larger-scale complex outside the legionary camp. It was a public facility which could be used by residents and travellers on payment of a fee. The bathhouse is divided into cold, warm and hot bathing rooms. The Romans used an ingenious system to heat the floors and walls which was called the hypocaust. Remains of the system are clearly visible as are the baths themselves, which were filled with warm water and emptied via stone drains.

The well-preserved colour wall paintings are a particularly attractive feature, dating back around 2,000 years. Today the bathhouse can be explored in hands-on fashion by visitors to the Legionary Trail and has been enhanced with lighting, fragrances and an exclusive "thermal finger bath".

A visit to the baths was part of the Romans' everyday routine. They would meet, chat and relax as well as taking care of their personal hygiene. There were also sporting activities and massages with aromatic oils. In order to guarantee smooth operation of the baths to ensure basic hygiene, a functioning system of fresh water supply and effluent drainage was required, as well as sufficient fuel to heat the rooms and the baths themselves.

Bathing guests were looking for a pleasurable experience, so Roman baths were often decorated with elaborate paintings, sculptures and monumental basins. The large bathhouse inside the legionary camp (thermae legionis) was much more lavishly equipped than the small bathhouse outside (balneum). Nothing remains of the larger facility today, but parts of its luxurious fittings can be viewed at the Vindonissa Museum.

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