Bathing on the edge of the empire

Baden aan de grens van het rijk
Start - End 
2018 - 2022 (ongoing)
Department of Archaeology
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Roman baths
Roman archaeology



The Romans were the first to introduce communal bathing habits in northern Gaul (modern Belgium, Northern France and part of the Netherlands). These highly technological and richly decorated bathhouses were markers of Roman 'culture', linked to Roman ideas about health and the body. This project investigates the public and private Roman-style baths in northern Gaul to understand a) the peculiarities of Roman-style baths in this region compared to the general evolution of baths within the Empire, b) how local elites adapted Roman-style bathing habits while recontextualizing ideas about the body, health and education, and c) how the north-western frontier region was incorporated in the Roman Empire, not through governance of a network of cities, but rather by relying on a pre-existing network of house-hold hubs that acquired a shiny new Roman gloss in the form of private baths. This project thus addresses broader historiographical or theoretical issues, such as elite self-fashioning, identity politics, long-term cultural change, social networking and technological innovation. Besides the fact that Roman private baths are underrepresented in most seminal works, this research also focusses on a geographical area that has too often been overlooked, despite its enormous research potential. .