I, Princess Karrie of Baalia, had thought we could visit a place considered to be one of the oldest still yet surviving in the city .... The Osin Baths. They have been the heart of the city for millennia. It is rumored that the city was laid out then built around the site of the Baths. Over the years the city continued to grow, culminating in the city you are about to see.
The building which houses the Baths are from what is called the Ancestoral Period and those in the immediate vicinity are from the Classical Architectural Period. There are three Architectual Periods and they are Ancestoral, Classical and Modern. Every Baalian child learns about the three Periods when they are of school age.
The Ancestoral Architectural Period refers to the time of the Jemhau and Kymni, those from who most Baalians are descended. Some refer to the Osin Baths by its ancient Jemhau name, Thermae Arum Osin or Baths of Osin. The meaning of Osin has regretfully been lost to the sands of time.
The Bath had been built around three principal rooms: the Caldarium (hot bath), the Tepidarium (warm bath) and the Frigidarium (cold bath). It also featured steam baths: the Sudatorium, a moist steam bath, and the Laconicum, a dry steam bath much like a sauna.
The entire building comprised of a double set of baths, one for men and the other for women. It has six different entrances from the street, one of which gives admission to the smaller women's set only. Five other entrances led to the men's department, of which two, communicate directly with the furnaces, and the other three with the bathing apartments.
Passing through the principal entrance, which was removed from the street by a narrow footway surrounding the building and after descending three steps, the bather walks into a small chamber on their left, which contained a water closet (Latrina), and proceeded to a covered Portico, which ran round three sides of an open court. These together formed the vestibule of the baths (Vestibulum Balnearum), in which those who worked at the baths waited.
Let us now move on to the Atrium, which was the exercise ground for the young men, or served as a promenade for visitors to the baths. Within this court the keeper of the baths (Balneator), who exacted the quadrans paid by each visitor, was also stationed. The room, which ran back from the portico, was usually appropriated to him; but it was also often used as an oecus or exedra, for the convenience of those awaiting the return of their acquaintances from the interior. In this court, advertisements for the theatre, or other announcements of general interest, were posted up. At the sides of the entrance were seats (Scholae), where one could sit for a moment before continuing on.
Passages from the Atrium leads into the Apodyterium, a room for undressing in which all visitors go to before entering the baths proper. Here, the bathers removed their clothing, which was taken in charge by workers known as Capsarii. The Apodyterium was a spacious chamber, with stone seats along two sides of the wall. The chamber was lighted by a glass window, and had six doors. One of these led to the Tepidarium and another to the Frigidarium, with its cold plunge-bath. The bath in this chamber was of white marble, approached by two marble steps.
From the Frigidarium the bather who wished to go through the warm bath and sweating process entered the Tepidarium. It did not contain water, but was merely heated with warm air of an agreeable temperature, in order to prepare the body for the great heat of the vapor and warm baths, and, upon returning, to prevent a too-sudden transition to the open air. This chamber also served as an Apodyterium for those who took the warm bath. The walls feature a number of separate compartments or recesses for receiving the garments when taken off. The compartments are divided from each other by figures of the kind called Atlantes or Telamones, which project from the walls and support a rich cornice above them in a wide arch.
Three bronze benches were also found in the room, which was heated as well by its contiguity to the hypocaust of the adjoining chamber, as by a brazier of bronze (Foculus). Sitting and perspiring beside such a brazier was called Ad Flammam Sudare.
The Tepidarium was the most highly ornamented room in the Osin Baths. It was merely a room to sit in and be anointed in. The floor was mosaic, the arched ceiling adorned with stucco and painting on a colored ground, the walls red.
Anointing was performed by workers called Unctores and Aliptae. It sometimes took place before going to the hot bath, and sometimes after the cold bath, before putting on the clothes, in order to check the perspiration. The baths had a special room (Destrictarium or Unctorium) for this purpose.
From the Tepidarium, a door opened into the Caldarium, whose mosaic floor was directly above the furnace or hypocaust. Its walls also were hollow, forming a great flue filled with heated air. At one end was a round basin (Labrum), and at the other a quadrangular bathing place which approached from the platform (Schola) by steps. The Labrum held cold water, for pouring upon the bather's head before he left the room. These basins are of marble. Because of the great heat of the room, the Caldarium was but slightly ornamented.
Next there was the laconicum, which was a chamber still hotter than the Caldarium, and used simply as a sweating-room, having no bath and was also called Sudatorium and Assa.
The Apodyterium has a passage communicating with the mouth of the furnace, called Praefurnium or Propigneum; and, passing down that passage. The next chamber, into which the Praefurnium projects, can also be entered from the street. It was assigned to the Fornacatores, or persons in charge of the fires. Of its two staircases, one led to the roof of the baths, and one to the boilers containing the water.
There were three boilers, one of which (Caldarium Vas) held the hot water; a second, the Tepid (Tepidarium); and the third, the Cold (Frigidarium). The warm water was turned into the warm bath by a pipe through the wall, marked on the plan. Underneath the hot chamber was set the circular furnace, of more than seven feet in diameter, which heated the water and poured hot air into the hollow cells of the Hypocaustum. It passed from the furnace under the first and last of the caldrons by two flues. The boiler containing hot water was placed immediately over the furnace; and as the water was drawn out from there, it was supplied from the next, the Tepidarium, which was raised a little higher and stood a little way off from the furnace. It was already considerably heated from its contiguity to the furnace and the Hypocaust below it, so that it supplied the deficiency of the former without materially diminishing its temperature; and the vacuum in this last was again filled up from the farthest removed, which contained the cold water received directly from the square reservoir seen behind them and have been called Miliaria, from their similarity of shape to a milestone.
Behind the boilers, another corridor leads into the court or Atrium appropriated to the workers of the bath.
The adjoining, smaller set of baths were assigned to the women. The entrance was by the door and conducted bathers into a small vestibule and from there into the Apodyterium, which, like the one in the men's bath, has a seat on either side built up against the wall. This opens upon a cold bath, answering to the Natatio of the men's set, but of much smaller dimensions. There were four steps on the inside to descend into it.
Opposite to the door of entrance into the Apodyterium is another doorway which led to the Tepidarium, which also communicates with the thermal chamber, on one side of which is a warm bath in a square recess, and at the farther extremity the labrum. The floor of this chamber was suspended, and its walls perforated for flues, like the corresponding one in the men's baths. The Tepidarium in the women's baths had no brazier, but it had a hanging or suspended floor.
Many words and some phrases used above are of the language of the Jemhau, whose descendants presently call Baalia home.