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Roman Baths: The Ultimate Guide

Roman Baths: The Ultimate Guide

1. Herculaneum

Only recently starting to creep out of Pompeii’s shadow, the fascinating ruins of Herculaneum contain two of the best preserved Roman baths in the world – the Forum baths and the Suburban baths. These are probably the best Roman baths found anywhere. Herculaneum was a port town established by the ancient Romans in what is now modern Ercolano, Italy. At its peak, it would have had around 4,000 citizens and served as a holiday town for wealthy Campanians and Romans. Like nearby Pompeii, Herculaneum was engulfed by the lava and mud which spewed from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Even the streets of Herculaneum are fascinating, displaying the high degree of planning employed by the Romans.

Villa Romana del Casale

The Villa Romana del Casale (Sicilian: Villa Rumana dû Casali) is a large and elaborate Roman villa or palace located about 3 km from the town of Piazza Armerina, Sicily. Excavations have revealed one of the richest, largest, and varied collections of Roman mosaics in the world, [1] for which the site has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. [2] The villa and artwork contained within date to the early 4th century AD.

The mosaic and opus sectile floors cover some 3,500 sq metres and are almost unique in their excellent state of preservation due to the landslide and floods that covered the remains. [3]

Although less well-known, an extraordinary collection of frescoes covered not only the interior rooms, but also the exterior walls.


The term is derived from the name of the town of Spa, Belgium, whose name is known back from Roman times, when the location was called Aquae Spadanae, [1] sometimes incorrectly connected to the Latin word spargere meaning to scatter, sprinkle or moisten. [2]

Since medieval times, illnesses caused by iron deficiency were treated by drinking chalybeate (iron-bearing) spring water (in 1326, the iron-master Collin le Loup claimed a cure, [3] when the spring was called Espa, a Walloon word for "fountain" [3] ).

In 16th-century England, the old Roman ideas of medicinal bathing were revived at towns like Bath (not the source of the word bath), and in 1596 William Slingsby who had been to the Belgian town (which he called Spaw) discovered a chalybeate spring in Yorkshire. He built an enclosed well at what became known as Harrogate, the first resort in England for drinking medicinal waters, then in 1596 Dr. Timothy Bright after discovering a second well called the resort The English Spaw, beginning the use of the word Spa as a generic description.

It is commonly claimed, in a commercial context, that the word is an acronym of various Latin phrases, such as salus per aquam or sanitas per aquam, meaning "health through water". [4] This is very unlikely: the derivation does not appear before the early 21st century and is probably a backronym as there is no evidence of acronyms passing into the language before the 20th century [5] nor does it match the known Roman name for the location. [6]

Spa therapies have existed since the classical times when taking bath with water was considered as a popular means to treat illnesses. [7] The practice of traveling to hot or cold springs in hopes of effecting a cure of some ailment dates back to prehistoric times. Archaeological investigations near hot springs in France and Czech Republic revealed Bronze Age weapons and offerings. In Great Britain, ancient legend credited early Celtic kings with the discovery of the hot springs in Bath, England.

Many people around the world believed that bathing in a particular spring, well, or river resulted in physical and spiritual purification. Forms of ritual purification existed among the Native Americans, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. Today, ritual purification through water can be found in the religious ceremonies of Jews, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus. These ceremonies reflect the ancient belief in the healing and purifying properties of water. Complex bathing rituals were also practiced in ancient Egypt, in prehistoric cities of the Indus Valley, and in Aegean civilizations. Most often these ancient people did little building construction around the water, and what they did construct was very temporary in nature. [8]

Bathing in Greek and Roman times Edit

Some of the earliest descriptions of western bathing practices came from Greece. The Greeks began bathing regimens that formed the foundation for modern spa procedures. These Aegean people utilized small bathtubs, wash basins, and foot baths for personal cleanliness. The earliest such findings are the baths in the palace complex at Knossos, Crete, and the luxurious alabaster bathtubs excavated in Akrotiri, Santorini both date from the mid-2nd millennium BC. They established public baths and showers within their gymnasium complexes for relaxation and personal hygiene. Greek mythology specified that certain natural springs or tidal pools were blessed by the gods to cure disease. Around these sacred pools, Greeks established bathing facilities for those desiring healing. Supplicants left offerings to the gods for healing at these sites and bathed themselves in hopes of a cure. The Spartans developed a primitive vapor bath. At Serangeum, an early Greek balneum (bathhouse, loosely translated), bathing chambers were cut into the hillside from which the hot springs issued. A series of niches cut into the rock above the chambers held bathers' clothing. One of the bathing chambers had a decorative mosaic floor depicting a driver and chariot pulled by four horses, a woman followed by two dogs, and a dolphin below. Thus, the early Greeks used the natural features, but expanded them and added their own amenities, such as decorations and shelves. During later Greek civilization, bathhouses were often built in conjunction with athletic fields. [8]

The Romans emulated many of the Greek bathing practices. Romans surpassed the Greeks in the size and complexity of their baths. This came about by many factors: the larger size and population of Roman cities, the availability of running water following the building of aqueducts, and the invention of cement, which made building large edifices easier, safer, and cheaper. As in Greece, the Roman bath became a focal center for social and recreational activity. As the Roman Empire expanded, the idea of the public bath spread to all parts of the Mediterranean and into regions of Europe and North Africa. With the construction of the aqueducts, the Romans had enough water not only for domestic, agricultural, and industrial uses, but also for their leisurely pursuits. The aqueducts provided water that was later heated for use in the baths. Today, the extent of the Roman bath is revealed at ruins and in archaeological excavations in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. [8]

The Romans also developed baths in their colonies, taking advantage of the natural hot springs occurring in Europe to construct baths at Aix and Vichy in France, Bath and Buxton in England, Aachen and Wiesbaden in Germany, Baden, Austria, and Aquincum in Hungary, among other locations. These baths became centers for recreational and social activities in Roman communities. Libraries, lecture halls, gymnasiums, and formal gardens became part of some bath complexes. In addition, the Romans used the hot thermal waters to relieve their suffering from rheumatism, arthritis, and overindulgence in food and drink. The decline of the Roman Empire in the west, beginning in AD 337 after the death of Emperor Constantine, resulted in Roman legions abandoning their outlying provinces and leaving the baths to be taken over by the local population or destroyed. [8]

Thus, the Romans elevated bathing to a fine art, and their bathhouses physically reflected these advancements. The Roman bath, for instance, included a far more complex ritual than a simple immersion or sweating procedure. The various parts of the bathing ritual — undressing, bathing, sweating, receiving a massage, and resting — required separated rooms which the Romans built to accommodate those functions. The segregation of the sexes and the additions of diversions not directly related to bathing also had direct impacts on the shape and form of bathhouses. The elaborate Roman bathing ritual and its resultant architecture served as precedents for later European and American bathing facilities. Formal garden spaces and opulent architectural arrangement equal to those of the Romans reappeared in Europe by the end of the 18th century. Major American spas followed suit a century later. [8]

Bathing in medieval times Edit

With the decline of the Roman Empire, the public baths often became places of licentious behavior, and such use was responsible for the spread rather than the cure of diseases. A general belief developed among the European populace was that frequent bathing promoted disease and sickness. Medieval church authorities encouraged this belief and made every effort to close down public baths. Ecclesiastical officials believed that public bathing created an environment open to immorality and disease. Roman Catholic Church officials even banned public bathing in an unsuccessful effort to halt syphilis epidemics from sweeping Europe. Overall, this period represented a time of decline for public bathing. [8]

People continued to seek out a few select hot and cold springs, believed to be holy wells, to cure various ailments. In an age of religious fervor, the benefits of the water were attributed to God or one of the saints. In 1326, Collin le Loup, an iron-master from Liège, Belgium, discovered the chalybeate springs of Spa, Belgium. Around these springs, a famous health resort eventually grew and the term "spa" came to refer to any health resort located near natural springs. During this period, individual springs became associated with the specific ailment that they could allegedly benefit. [8]

Great bathhouses were built in Byzantine centers such as Constantinople and Antioch, [9] and the popes allocated to the Romans bathing through diaconia, or private Lateran baths, or even a myriad of monastic bath houses functioning in eighth and ninth centuries. [10] The Popes maintained their baths in their residences, and bath houses including hot baths incorporated into Christian Church buildings or those of monasteries, which known as "charity baths" because they served both the clerics and needy poor people. [11] The Church also built public bathing facilities that were separate for both sexes near monasteries and pilgrimage sites also, the popes situated baths within church basilicas and monasteries since the early Middle Ages. [12] Catholic religious orders of the Augustinians' and Benedictines' rules contained ritual purification, [13] and inspired by Benedict of Nursia encouragement for the practice of therapeutic bathing Benedictine monks played a role in the development and promotion of spa. [11] Protestantism also played a prominent role in the development of the British spas. [11]

Bathing procedures during this period varied greatly. By the 16th century, physicians at Karlsbad, Bohemia, prescribed that the mineral water be taken internally as well as externally. Patients periodically bathed in warm water for up to 10 or 11 hours while drinking glasses of mineral water. The first bath session occurred in the morning, the second in the afternoon. This treatment lasted several days until skin pustules formed and broke resulting in the draining of "poisons" considered to be the source of the disease. Then followed another series of shorter, hotter baths to wash the infection away and close the eruptions. [8]

In the English coastal town of Scarborough in 1626, a Mrs. Elizabeth Farrow discovered a stream of acidic water running from one of the cliffs to the south of the town. This was deemed to have beneficial health properties and gave birth to Scarborough Spa. Dr Wittie's book about the spa waters published in 1660 attracted a flood of visitors to the town. Sea bathing was added to the cure, and Scarborough became Britain's first seaside resort. The first rolling bathing machines for bathers are recorded on the sands in 1735. [ citation needed ]

Bathing in the 18th century Edit

In the 17th century, most upper-class Europeans washed their clothes with water often and washed only their faces (with linen), feeling that bathing the entire body was a lower-class activity but the upper-class slowly began changing their attitudes toward bathing as a way to restore health later in that century. The wealthy flocked to health resorts to drink and bathe in the waters. In 1702, Anne, Queen of Great Britain, traveled to Bath, the former Roman development, to bathe. A short time later, Richard (Beau) Nash came to Bath. By the force of his personality, Nash became the arbiter of good taste and manners in England. He along with financier Ralph Allen and architect John Wood transformed Bath from a country spa into the social capital of England. Bath set the tone for other spas in Europe to follow. Ostensibly, the wealthy and famous arrived there on a seasonal basis to bathe in and drink the water however, they also came to display their opulence. Social activities at Bath included dances, concerts, playing cards, lectures, and promenading down the street. [8]

A typical day at Bath might be an early morning communal bath followed by a private breakfast party. Afterwards, one either drank water at the Pump Room (a building constructed over the thermal water source) or attended a fashion show. Physicians encouraged health resort patrons to bathe in and drink the waters with equal vigor. The next several hours of the day could be spent in shopping, visiting the lending library, attending concerts, or stopping at one of the coffeehouses. At 4:00 pm, the rich and famous dressed up in their finery and promenaded down the streets. Next came dinner, more promenading, and an evening of dancing or gambling. [8]

Similar activities occurred in health resorts throughout Europe. The spas became stages on which Europeans paraded with great pageantry. These resorts became infamous as places full of gossip and scandals. The various social and economic classes selected specific seasons during the year's course, staying from one to several months, to vacation at each resort. One season aristocrats occupied the resorts at other times, prosperous farmers or retired military men took the baths. The wealthy and the criminals that preyed on them moved from one spa to the next as the fashionable season for that resort changed. [8]

During the 18th century, a revival in the medical uses of spring water was promoted by Enlightened physicians across Europe. [14] This revival changed the way of taking a spa treatment. For example, in Karlsbad the accepted method of drinking the mineral water required sending large barrels to individual boardinghouses where the patients drank physician-prescribed dosages in the solitude of their rooms. Dr. David Beecher in 1777 recommended that the patients come to the fountainhead for the water and that each patient should first do some prescribed exercises. This innovation increased the medicinal benefits obtained and gradually physical activity became part of the European bathing regimen. In 1797, in England, Dr. James Currie published The Effects of Water, Cold and Warm, as a Remedy in Fever and other Diseases. As shown by M D Eddy, this book, along with numerous local pamphlets on composition of spa water, stimulated additional interest in water cures and advocated the external and internal use of water as part of the curing process. [8] [15]

Bathing in the 19th and 20th centuries Edit

In the 19th century, bathing became a more accepted practice as physicians realized some of the benefits that cleanliness could provide. A cholera epidemic in Liverpool, England in 1842 resulted in a sanitation renaissance, facilitated by the overlapping hydropathy and sanitation movements, and the implementation of a series of statutes known collectively as "The Baths and Wash-houses Acts 1846 to 1896". [16] [17] [18] [19] The result was increased facilities for bathing and washed clothes, and more people participating in these activities.

Also in 1842, a house in Cincinnati, Ohio, received the first indoor bathtub in the United States. Bathing, however, was still not a universal custom. Only one year later — in 1843 — bathing between 1 November and 15 March was outlawed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as a health measure, and in 1845 bathing was banned in Boston, Massachusetts, unless under the direct orders of a physician. The situation improved, however, and by 1867 in Philadelphia most houses of the well-to-do had tubs and indoor plumbing. In England, hot showers were installed in barracks and schools by the 1880s. The taboos against bathing disappeared with advancements in medical science the worldwide medical community was even promoting the benefits of bathing. In addition, the Victorian taste for the exotic lent itself perfectly to seeking out the curative powers of thermal water. [8]

In most instances, the formal architectural development of European spas took place in the 18th and 19th centuries. The architecture of Bath, England, developed along Georgian and Neoclassical lines, generally following Palladian structures. The most important architectural form that emerged was the "crescent" — a semi-elliptical street plan used in many areas of England. The spa architecture of Carlsbad, Marienbad, Franzensbad, and Baden-Baden was primarily Neoclassical, but the literature seems to indicate that large bathhouses were not constructed until well into the 19th century. The emphasis on drinking the waters rather than bathing in them led to the development of separate structures known as Trinkhallen (drinking halls) where those taking the cure spent hours drinking water from the springs. [8]

By the mid-19th century, the situation had changed dramatically. Visitors to the European spas began to stress bathing in addition to drinking the waters. Besides fountains, pavilions, and Trinkhallen, bathhouses on the scale of the Roman baths were revived. Photographs of a 19th-century spa complex taken in the 1930s, detailing the earlier architecture, show heavy use of mosaic floors, marble walls, classical statuary, arched openings, domed ceilings, segmental arches, triangular pediments, Corinthian columns, and all the other trappings of a Neoclassical revival. The buildings were usually separated by function — with the Trinkhalle, the bathhouse, the inhalatorium (for inhaling the vapors), and the Kurhaus or Conversationhaus that was the center of social activity. Baden-Baden featured golf courses and tennis courts, "superb roads to motor over, and drives along quaint lanes where wild deer are as common as cows to us, and almost as unafraid". [8]

The European spa, then, started with structures to house the drinking function — from simple fountains to pavilions to elaborate Trinkhallen. The enormous bathhouses came later in the 19th century as a renewed preference for an elaborate bathing ritual to cure ills and improve health came into vogue. European architects looked back to Roman civilizations and carefully studied their fine architectural precedents. The Europeans copied the same formality, symmetry, division of rooms by function, and opulent interior design in their bathhouses. They emulated the fountains and formal garden spaces in their resorts, and they also added new diversions. The tour books always mentioned the roomy, woodsy offerings in the vicinity and the faster-paced evening diversions. [8]

By the beginning of the 19th century, the European bathing regimen consisted of numerous accumulated traditions. The bathing routine included soaking in hot water, drinking the water, steaming in a vapor room, and relaxing in a cooling room. In addition, doctors ordered that patients be douched with hot or cold water and given a select diet to promote a cure. Authors began writing guidebooks to the health resorts of Europe explaining the medical benefits and social amenities of each. Rich Europeans and Americans traveled to these resorts to take in cultural activities and the baths. [8]

Each European spa began offering similar cures while maintaining a certain amount of individuality. The 19th-century bathing regimen at Karlsbad can serve as a general portrayal of European bathing practices during this century. Visitors arose at 6 am to drink the water and be serenaded by a band. Next came a light breakfast, bath, and lunch. The doctors at Karlsbad usually limited patients to certain foods for each meal. In the afternoon, visitors went sight-seeing or attended concerts. Nightly theatrical performances followed the evening meal. This ended around 9 pm with the patients returning to their boardinghouses to sleep until 6 the next morning. This regimen continued for as long as a month and then the patients returned home until the next year. Other 19th-century European spa regimens followed similar schedules. [8]

At the beginning of the 20th century, European spas combined a strict diet and exercise regimen with a complex bathing procedure to achieve benefits for the patients. One example will suffice to illustrate the change in bathing procedures. Patients at Baden-Baden, which specialized in treating rheumatoid arthritis, were directed to see a doctor before taking the baths. Once this occurred, the bathers proceeded to the main bathhouse where they paid for their baths and stored their valuables before being assigned a booth for undressing. The bathhouse supplied bathers with towels, sheets, and slippers. [8]

The Baden-Baden bathing procedure began with a warm shower. The bathers next entered a room of circulating, 140 °F (60 °C) hot air for 20 minutes, spent another ten minutes in a room with 150 °F (66 °C) temperature, partook of a 154 °F (68 °C) vapor bath, then showered and received a soap massage. After the massage, the bathers swam in a pool heated approximately to body temperature. After the swim, the bathers rested for 15 to 20 minutes in the warm "Sprudel" room pool . This shallow pool's bottom contained an 8-inch (200 mm) layer of sand through with naturally carbonated water bubbled up. This was followed by a series of gradually cooler showers and pools. After that, the attendants rubbed down the bathers with warm towels and then wrapped them in sheets and covered them with blankets to rest for 20 minutes. This ended the bathing portion of the treatment. The rest of the cure consisted of a prescribed diet, exercise, and water-drinking program. [8]

The European spas provided various other diversions for guests after the bath, including gambling, horse racing, fishing, hunting, tennis, skating, dancing, golf, and horseback riding. Sight-seeing and theatrical performances served as further incentives for people to go to the spa. Some European governments even recognized the medical benefits of spa therapy and paid a portion of the patient's expenses. A number of these spas catered to those suffering from obesity and overindulgence in addition to various other medical complaints. In recent years, the elegance and style of earlier centuries may have diminished, but people still come to the natural hot springs for relaxation and health. [8] In Germany, the tradition survives to the present day. 'Taking a cure' (Kur) at a spa is generally covered to a large amount by both public and private health care insurance. Usually, a doctor prescribes a stay of three weeks at a mineral spring or other natural setting where a patient's condition will be treated with healing spring waters and natural therapies. While the insurance companies used to also cover meals and accommodation, many now only pay for the treatments and expect the patient to pay for transportation, accommodation, and meals. Most Germans are eligible for a Kur every two to six years, depending on the severity of their condition. Germans do still get paid their regular salary during this time away from their job, which is not taken out of their vacation days. [20]

In colonial America Edit

Some European colonists brought with them knowledge of the hot water therapy for medicinal purposes, and others learned the benefits of hot springs from the Native Americans. Europeans gradually obtained many of the hot and cold springs from the various Indian tribes. They then developed the spring to suit European tastes. By the 1760s, British colonists were traveling to hot and cold springs in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York, and Virginia in search of water cures. Among the more frequently visited of these springs were Bath, Yellow, and Bristol Springs in Pennsylvania and Warm Springs, Hot Springs, and White Sulphur Springs (now in West Virginia) in Virginia. [8] In the last decade of the 1700s, New York spas were beginning to be frequented by intrepid travelers, most notably Ballston Spa. Nearby Saratoga Springs and Kinderhook were yet to be discovered. [21] [22]

Colonial doctors gradually began to recommend hot springs for ailments. Dr. Benjamin Rush, American patriot and physician, praised the springs of Bristol, Pennsylvania, in 1773. Dr. Samuel Tenney in 1783 and Dr. Valentine Seaman in 1792 examined the water of Ballston Spa in New York and wrote of possible medicinal uses of the springs. Hotels were constructed to accommodate visitors to the various springs. Entrepreneurs operated establishments where the travelers could lodge, eat, and drink. Thus began the health resort industry in the United States. [8]

Bathing in 19th- and 20th-century America Edit

After the American Revolution, the spa industry continued to gain popularity. The first truly popular spa was Saratoga Springs, which, by 1815, had two large, four-story, Greek revival hotels. It grew rapidly, and by 1821 it had at least five hundred rooms for accommodation. Its relative proximity to New York City and access to the country's most developed steamboat lines meant that by the mid-1820s the spa became the country's most popular tourist destination, serving both the country's elite and a more middle-class audience. [23] [24] Although spa activity had been central to Saratoga in the 1810s, by the 1820s the resort had hotels with great ballrooms, opera houses, stores, and clubhouses. The Union Hotel (first built in 1803 but steadily expanded over the coming decades) had its own esplanade, and by the 1820s had its own fountain and formal landscaping, but with only two small bathhouses. As the resort developed as a tourist destination mineral bathhouses became auxiliary structures and not the central features of the resort, although the drinking of mineral water was at least followed as a pro-forma activity by most in attendance, despite nightly dinners that were elaborate and extensive. Although the ostensible purpose of the Saratoga and other New York spas was to provide access to the healthful mineral waters, their real drawing card was a complex social life and a cultural cachet. However, the wider audience it garnered by the late 1820s began to take some of the bloom off the resort, and in the mid-1830s, as a successful bid to revive itself, it turned to horse racing. [8] [25]

By the mid-1850s hot and cold spring resorts existed in 20 states. Many of these resorts contained similar architectural features. Most health resorts had a large, two-story central building near or at the springs, with smaller structures surrounding it. The main building provided the guests with facilities for dining, and possibly, dancing on the first floor, and the second story consisted of sleeping rooms. The outlying structures were individual guest cabins, and other auxiliary buildings formed a semicircle or U-shape around the large building. [8]

These resorts offered swimming, fishing, hunting, and horseback riding as well as facilities for bathing. The Virginia resorts, particularly White Sulphur Springs, proved popular before and after the Civil War. After the Civil War, spa vacations became very popular as returning soldiers bathed to heal wounds and the American economy allowed more leisure time. Saratoga Springs in New York became one of the main centers for this type of activity. Bathing in and drinking the warm, carbonated spring water only served as a prelude to the more interesting social activities of gambling, promenading, horse racing, and dancing. [8] [26] [27]

During the last half of the 19th century, western entrepreneurs developed natural hot and cold springs into resorts — from the Mississippi River to the West Coast. Many of these spas offered individual tub baths, vapor baths, douche sprays, needle showers, and pool bathing to their guests. The various railroads that spanned the country promoted these resorts to encourage train travel. Hot Springs, Arkansas, became a major resort for people from the large metropolitan areas of St. Louis and Chicago. [8]

The popularity of the spas continued into the 20th century. Some medical critics, however, charged that the thermal waters in such renowned resorts as Hot Springs, Virginia, and Saratoga Springs, New York, were no more beneficial to health than ordinary heated water. The various spa owners countered these arguments by developing better hydrotherapy for their patients. At the Saratoga spa, treatments for heart and circulatory disorders, rheumatic conditions, nervous disorders, metabolic diseases, and skin diseases were developed. In 1910, the New York state government began purchasing the principal springs to protect them from exploitation. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt was governor of New York, he pushed for a European type of spa development at Saratoga. The architects for the new complex spent two years studying the technical aspects of bathing in Europe. Completed in 1933, the development had three bathhouses — Lincoln, Washington, and Roosevelt — a drinking hall, the Hall of Springs, and a building housing the Simon Baruch Research Institute. Four additional buildings composed the recreation area and housed arcades and a swimming pool decorated with blue faience terra-cotta tile. Saratoga Spa State Park's Neoclassical buildings were laid out in a grand manner, with formal perpendicular axes, solid brick construction, and stone and concrete Roman-revival detailing. The spa was surrounded by a 1,200-acre (4.9 km 2 ) natural park that had 18 miles (29 km) of bridle paths, "with measured walks at scientifically calculated gradients through its groves and vales, with spouting springs adding unexpected touches to its vistas, with the tumbling waters of Geyser Brook flowing beneath bridges of the fine roads. Full advantage has been taken of the natural beauty of the park, but no formal landscaping". Promotional literature again advertised the attractions directly outside the spa: shopping, horse races, and historic sites associated with revolutionary war history. New York Governor Herbert Lehman opened the new facilities to the public in July 1935. [8]

Other leading spas in the U.S. during this period were French Lick, Indiana Hot Springs and White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia Hot Springs, Arkansas and Warm Springs, Georgia. French Lick specialized in treating obesity and constipation through a combination of bathing and drinking the water and exercising. Hot Springs, Virginia, specialized in digestive ailments and heart diseases, and White Sulphur Springs, Virginia, treated these ailments and skin diseases. Both resorts offered baths where the water would wash continuously over the patients as they lay in a shallow pool. Warm Springs, Georgia, gained a reputation for treating infantile paralysis by a procedure of baths and exercise. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who earlier supported Saratoga, became a frequent visitor and promoter of this spa. [8]

A 'body treatment', 'spa treatment', or 'cosmetic treatment' is non-medical procedure to help the health of the body. It is often performed at a resort, destination spa, day spa, beauty salon or school.

Typical treatments include:

By the late 1930s more than 2,000 hot- or cold-springs health resorts were operating in the United States. This number had diminished greatly by the 1950s and continued to decline in the following two decades. In the recent past, spas in the U.S. emphasized dietary, exercise, or recreational programs more than traditional bathing activities.

Up until recently, [ when? ] the public bathing industry in the U.S. remained stagnant. [8] Nevertheless, in Europe, therapeutic baths have always been very popular, and remain so today. [ citation needed ] The same is true in Japan, where the traditional hot springs baths, known as onsen, always attracted plenty of visitors. [ citation needed ]

But also in the U.S., with the increasing focus on health and wellness, such treatments are again becoming popular. [30]

    , a form of beauty salon. , a resort for personal care treatments. , a town visited for the supposed healing properties of the water.
  • Foot spa , in United States usage. , from the sources in Spa. , a hot stone spa
  • Spas usually offer mud baths for general health, or to address a variety of medical conditions. This is also known as 'fangotherapy'. A variety of medicinal clays and peats is used. [31]

Spa - places devoted to overall well-being through a variety of professional services that encourage the renewal of mind, body and spirit. [32]

Types Edit

"Balneotherapy treatments can have different purposes. In a spa setting, they can be used to treat conditions such as arthritis and backache, build up muscles after injury or illness or to stimulate the immune system, and they can be enjoyed as a relief from day-to-day stress." [33]

    , a spa offering an on-site source of natural mineral, thermal or seawater used in hydrotherapy treatments.
  • Resort/hotel spa, a spa owned by and located within a resort or hotel providing professionally administered spa services, fitness and wellness components and spa cuisine menu choices.
  • Mobile spa, a spa which provides services at home, hotels, or wherever you are.

The International Spa and Body Wrap Association (ISBWA) is an international association for spas and body wrap centers around the world. [34] The main concern of the ISBWA is the regulation of the industry and the welfare of the consumers. Member organisations are to adhere to the ISBWA code of ethics, which requires them to do the following:

  • Provide treatments and products that are safe, sanitary, and effective.
  • Adhere to the highest standards of professionalism and honesty in all client interactions, and will not engage in any unethical practices.
  • Respect the right of its clients to dignity, confidentiality, and privacy.
  • Make a commitment to improving its services and treatments.
  • Adhere to the laws, rules and regulations governing the provision of treatments and services as required by their local government in which they operate.

The Uniform Swimming Pool, Spa and Hot Tub Code (USPSHTC) is a model code developed by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) to govern the installation and inspection of plumbing systems associated with swimming pools, spas and hot tubs as a means of promoting the public's health, safety and welfare.

Beckford’s Tower

Built between 1826 and 1827, Beckford’s Tower and Museum, with its winding staircase and impressive view across the historic Lansdown Cemetery, is somewhere a little different to visit in picturesque Bath. The only surviving example of the architecture of William Beckford, who also designed Fonthill Abbey in Wiltshire, the 120-foot-tall neo-classical tower provides a peculiar charm and gorgeous countryside vistas.

Santo Stefano Island

A little more than one sea mile from Ventotene there lies the island of Santo Stefano, dominated by the imposing bulk of the penitentiary built in 1700 by the architect Francesco Carpi, who designed a model penitentiary on behalf of Ferdinand IV King of Naples. It was used until 1965 and saw illustrious prisoners during the twenty years of Fascism, including the future President of the Republic Sandro Pertini. Unfortunately, visits to the Bourbon prison of Santo Stefano have been forbidden for some years due to the unsafe state of the structure.

Ancient Roman Remains

Grab a mask and snorkel and dive under the cliff of the lighthouse of Ventotene and you can still see the remains of Roman fish farms.

The Romans inhabited the island of Ventotene making it a fairly prosperous port.

Villa Giulia

Roman cisterns of Ventotene

The Cistern of Villa Stefania is a perfect example of a rainwater supply system leftover from Ancient Rome: it is perfectly stuccoed and intact.

Island Views

Following the Via degli Ulivi in the opposite direction of the town, there is the Semaforo, an old anti-aircraft post dating back to the Second World War. The Semaforo is an excellent observation point not only to view in one glance the whole island but also to admire the flight of seagulls and kestrels.

Both Ventotene and the islet of Santo Stefano are of great importance for the stopover of migratory birds on their way from Europe to Africa. There are 194 species of birds that stop over the islands throughout the year. There is even the Ornithological Museum of Ventotene that can be visited throughout the year.

From this vantage point, you can also admire the sea. Along the coast, observe posidonias and seaweeds while, in the tidal pools, just below the surface of the water, you can spot: jellyfish, corals, gorgonians and actinias, molluscs, crustaceans, starfish and sea urchins. It is not uncommon to see evolutions of a small group of dolphins that frequent the waters of this sea and plunder the networks of fishermen along the reef called Moggio di Terra.

The waters are rich in squid, groupers, mullets, snappers, breams, mullets, amberjacks, turbot. The characteristics and the abundance of fish species and avifauna on the island have meant that in 1999 Ventotene was included, by the Ministry of Environment, among the Marine and Terrestrial Parks. Rich in beaches and coves, some reachable only by sea, the island also lives on tourism.

Among the typical products of the island there is the very precious Ventotene Lentil, as well known as the one from Castelluccio. The inhabitants serve it in soup with an abundant amount of basil and fish.

The Emerald and Turquoise Beaches of Ventotene

Cala Nave

One of the iconic beaches of Ventotene is located below the town and is called Cala Nave. It takes its name from the sedimentary rock that emerges in front of the beach and resembles a ship. It is narrow and has dark sand. Cala Nave is a private beach with umbrellas and sunbeds that you can rent for the day.

Lighthouse rocks

Cala Rossano

Punta Pascone

Secca dell'Archetto is a shoal located about 300 meters from the coast of the island in the open sea. The underwater tunnel inhabited by sea sponges leaves you breathless.

Roman Baths: The Ultimate Guide - History

Of all the leisure activities, bathing was surely the most important for the greatest number of Romans, since it was part of the daily regimen for men of all classes, and many women as well. We think of bathing as a very private activity conducted in the home, but bathing in Rome was a communal activity, conducted for the most part in public facilities that in some ways resembled modern spas or health clubs (although they were far less expensive). A modern scholar, Fikret Yegül, sums up the significance of Roman baths in the following way ( Baths and Bathing in Classical Antiquity . Cambridge: MIT, 1992):

Although wealthy Romans might set up a bath in their town houses or especially in their country villas, heating a series of rooms or even a separate building especially for this purpose, even they often frequented the numerous public bathhouses in the cities and towns throughout the empire. Small bathhouses, called balneae , might be privately owned, but they were public in the sense that they were open to the populace for a fee, which was usually quite reasonable. The large baths, called thermae , were owned by the state and often covered several city blocks. Fees for both types of baths were quite reasonable, within the budget of most free Roman males. Since the Roman workday began at sunrise, work was usually over at little after noon. About 2:00-3:00 pm, men would go to the baths and plan to stay for several hours of sport, bathing, and conversation, after which they would be ready for a relaxing dinner. Republican bathhouses often had separate bathing facilities for women and men, but by the empire the custom was to open the bathhouses to women during the early part of the day and reserve it for men from 2:00 pm until closing time (usually sundown, though we occasionally hear of a bath being used at night). For example, one contract for the management of a provincial bath specified that the facility would be open to women from daybreak until about noon, and to men from about 2:00 pm until sunset although the women got the less desirable hours, their fee was twice as high as the men's, 1 as (a copper coin) for a woman and ½ as for a man. Mixed bathing was generally frowned upon, although the fact that various emperors repeatedly forbade it seems to indicate that the prohibitions did not always work. Certainly women who were concerned about their respectability did not frequent the baths when the men were there, but of course the baths were an excellent place for prostitutes to ply their trade.

Exercise: Bathing had a fairly regular ritual, and bathhouses were built to accommodate this. Upon entering the baths, individuals went first to the dressing room ( apodyterium —this reconstruction drawing shows the men's dressing room in the Forum Baths in Pompeii), where there were niches and cabinets to store their street clothes and shoes (in the model above, the dressing room is on the left, farthest from the furnace click here for a closer look). Many bathers were accompanied by one or more slaves to carry their gear and guard their clothes in the dressing rooms, but the bathhouses provided attendants who would watch over the belongings of the poorest for a fee. Sometimes the dressing room did double duty for example, in the Stabian Baths in Pompeii the women's dressing room also served as a frigidarium, containing a small cold-water pool (note the graffito of a ship scratched into the post separating two niches in this room). Although the evidence is not clear about exactly what Romans wore when bathing, it seems probable that they did not exercise in the nude (as Greek males did) and may also have worn some light covering in the baths—perhaps the subligaculum . Within the baths special sandals with thick soles were needed to protect the feet from the heated floors.

This drawing of the Stabian Baths shows the efficient design of a relatively small Republican bathhouse with separate facilities for men and women. The large central courtyard was the exercise ground ( palaestra ) it was surrounded by a shady portico which led into the bathing rooms. They might also take a swim in the large outdoor pool ( natatio ) such as this one in the Stabian Baths. After changing clothes and oiling their bodies, male bathers typically began their regimen with exercise, ranging from mild weight-lifting (as shown in the image at left), wrestling, various types of ball playing, running, and swimming (click here to find out more about Roman ball games). Although women athletes (like the one at left) are shown in the famous fourth-century CE mosaics from Piazza Armerina in Sicily, these apparently depict some sort of contest or competition rather than ordinary practice. Most of those exercising in the palaestrae were likely to be men.

Bathing: After exercise, bathers would have the dirt and oil scraped from their bodies with a curved metal implement called a strigil. Then the bathing proper began. Accompanied by a slave carrying their towels, oil flasks and strigils, bathers would progress at a leisurely pace through rooms of various temperature. They might start in the warm room ( tepidarium ), which had heated walls and floors but sometimes had no pool, and then proceed to the hot bath ( caldarium ), which was closest to the furnace. This room had a large tub or small pool with very hot water and a waist-high fountain ( labrum ) with cool water to splash on the face and neck. After this the bather might spend some time in the tepidarium again before finishing in the cold room ( frigidarium ) with a refreshing dip in the cold pool. Other rooms provided moist steam, dry heat like a sauna ( laconicum ), and massage with perfumed oils.

After their baths, patrons could stroll in the gardens, visit the library, watch performances of jugglers or acrobats, listen to a literary recital, or buy a snack from the many food vendors. Doubtless the baths were noisy, as the philosopher Seneca complained when he lived near a bathhouse in Rome, but the baths were probably very attractive places. Although most of the fine decor has not survived, many writers comment on the beauty and luxury of the bathhouses, with their well-lighted, airy rooms with high vaulted ceilings, lovely mosaics, paintings and colored marble panels, and silver faucets and fittings. This computer-generated reconstruction of the frigidarium of the baths of Hadrian at Lepcis Magna in Libya gives some idea of the splendor of the Roman thermae . The model at right depicts the baths of Trajan, located near the Colosseum. Enjoy a virtual bath by visiting these baths in Region III of VRoma, either via the web gateway or the anonymous browser.)

Heating System: Roman engineers devised an ingenious system of heating the baths—the hypocaust. The floor was raised off the ground by pillars and spaces were left inside the walls so that hot air from the furnace ( praefurnium ) could circulate through these open areas (see drawing of hypocaust design). Rooms requiring the most heat were placed closest to the furnace, whose heat could be increased by adding more wood. Click here to see the skeleton of a dog found in the hypocaust of a bath in Germany it had apparently crawled beneath the floor seeking warmth and been asphyxiated by the fumes.

Latrines: Bathhouses also had large public latrines, often with marble seats over channels whose continuous flow of water constituted the first “flush toilets.” A shallow water channel in front of the seats was furnished with sponges attached to sticks for patrons to wipe themselves.

In the vintage baths, especially Széchenyi, retirees often meet at dawn in the various saunas and springs to fulfill their “bath prescriptions.” (The water allegedly cures arthritis and other joint ailments, as well as pretty much everything else. Balneology, the study of mineral hot springs and their medicinal effects, is an official thing.) But they’re also there to shoot the breeze and famously play floating chess in the steaming outdoor pools. It’s about community and tradition, wet and mostly undressed.

Younger couples or friends meet at Gellért or Király, the latter of which has dark stone walls and skylights whose perforations look like stars (a long-overdue renovation and expansion of this Turkish-style bath is set to be complete in 2020).

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Guy groups spend the men’s days lounging at the atmospheric Rudas, under a domed and vaulted interior built in the 16th century by an Ottoman pasha and in continuous operation since the year 1572 (it was tastefully renovated in 2014).

The origins of spa

Where does the word spa come from?

Although there is no clear answer as to where the word spa began to be associated with healing practices, but there are two main theories about the term&rsquos etymology:

- 'Spa&rsquo is an acronym of the Latin phrase &lsquoSalus per Aquam&rsquo, meaning &lsquohealth from water&rsquo.
- &lsquoSpa&rsquo is named after the Belgian village, Spa, where hot mineral springs were used by Roman soldiers to treat aching muscles and wounds from a battle.

How old are spas?

Whilst many people associate traditional spas with Roman baths, there is evidence of spa-type therapies dating back thousands of years when there was a belief in the curative powers of mineral waters. Paul Joseph, co-founder of Health and Fitness Travel explains: &ldquoSpas, healing waters, thalassotherapy, hydrotherapy and hot springs date back thousands of years - an ancient practice conducted long before the Greeks and Romans!&rdquo

One of the first written accounts of bathing being used as a curative process rather than a simple hygiene ritual was by ancient Greek philosopher Hippocrates, who was alive over 2000 years ago between 460 and 370 B.C. Hippocrates proposed that the cause of all ailments was an imbalance of bodily fluids, and advocated that &ldquothe way to health is to have an aromatic bath and scented massage every day.&rdquo

This process, using bathing as a treatment of disease, is known as balneotherapy and is considered the founding principle of spa-going. Its influence can be seen today in everything from mineral-infused treatments or jumping in the hot tub after a swim to thalassotherapy - swimming in seawater to heal the skin.

In their early history, the primary use of curative baths was to heal the wounds of Roman soldiers during the reign of Augustus from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D. At this time, there were approximately 170 baths, known as a thermae, in Rome and it didn&rsquot take long before all the city&rsquos citizens began to view baths as a form of rest and relaxation. It was in 70 A.D. that the Romans built a thermae bath spa around the hot springs at Bath, the first of its kind in Britain.

In 1326, Collin le Loup, an ironmaster from Liège, Belgium, discovered the chalybeate springs in the town of Spa, Belgium. A famous health resort eventually grew around these springs and the term &lsquospa&rsquo came to refer to any health resort located near natural springs, with individual springs being associated with the disease they were thought to benefit.

However, it was not only in Europe that rituals associated with spa-going were developing. From Japanese ryokan to Turkish hammams and Finnish saunas/steam rooms, different healing facilities were growing around the world. By the Elizabethan era, spa resorts were fully ingrained into British culture and since then they have become more advanced but still stick to their humble, restorative origins.

The spa’s renaissance: an exercise in luxury

Before long, the enthusiasm for spa treatments was taken across to the United States, which is where the first mass-audience spa was established in Saratoga Springs, New York. By 1815, the area boasted two huge Greek revival hotels, with up to 500 accommodation rooms for visitors eager to take solace from the rapidly modernising world.

The first ever day spa was introduced by Elizabeth Arden in 1910, known as Manhattan&rsquos Red Door Salon. This spa offered manicures, facials and more, bringing it much closer to the modern-day experience. As Beth McGroarty, Research Director at the Global Wellness Institute explains: &ldquoThe modern concept of the spa really started to take off in the 1980s.&rdquo Over the next 20 years, spa days would be regarded as a treat for primarily wealthy women, who visited in groups to celebrate birthdays, hen dos, and other social occasions. Beth points out that &ldquothe big, recent story is one of explosive growth: the global spa industry grew from $60 billion USD in 2007 to $98.6 billion USD in 2015 &ndash while spa locations jumped from 71,762 to 121,595 in those same short eight years.&rdquo

Inclusive indulgence

As the demand for spas increased, establishments proliferated, and with their presence came a widened accessibility to spa services, along with more niche offerings for individuals&rsquo needs. Beth notes that, in the past decade, &ldquothe focus of spas has shifted from a narrow association with wealthy women and &ldquopampering&rdquo to include all demographics: men, teens, children, and experiences at a larger range of price-points.&rdquo

Although back in the Roman era throughout history, gentlemen were the main patrons of spas, it seems perceptions have changed, and spas are now primarily viewed as a place for women. Chris Perrett from Spa Guide explained: &ldquoUp until relatively recently there's been a stigma surrounding men going to spas in the UK. While our friends in Scandinavia, Germany and Italy continued to embrace the health benefits, public perception made them a no-go zone for British men due to constrictive notions of traditional masculinity&rdquo.

However, as society at large has begun to understand the flaws in gender stereotypes, spas and wellness, in general, have become open to men again. Chris says: &ldquoLuckily the popularity of male grooming products has led to men actively seeking spas and targeted body treatments, which in turn has given rise to many health spas now providing men's treatment lists. The most popular treatments range from men's facials and head massages to deep tissue massages, showing men are just as keen to look good as they are to aid their sports recovery.&rdquo

The contemporary spa

The expansion of the modern-day spa&rsquos demographic is largely due to a redefinition that has slowly been developing over the last 10 years &ndash and not just when it comes to men. Whereas the majority of spas of the 1980s to early 2000s were luxury establishments offering lavish service to simply make the customer feel great topped off with afternoon tea, today&rsquos leading spas instead focus on intrinsic health. Wellness is now the ultimate goal, whether this is deep tissue massages that target pressure points, balancing steam rooms, or more carefully-tailored spa breaks aimed at achieving certain benefits such as weight loss or detoxifying.

Beth McGroarty defines this process as the development of spas as wellness centres. This growing trend involves changes such as &ldquoadding everything from yoga, fitness or meditation classes, to having healthy food and spa cafes, to more alternative medicine approaches from Ayurveda to traditional Chinese medicine and reiki. We&rsquove even seen spas partnering with medical professionals to offer services which aim to accomplish a more integrative lifestyle change.&rdquo

What was once luxury pampering has now become a holistic approach to health and wellbeing which Beth argues has resulted in a serious perceptual shift in what a spa is, becoming &ldquoa far more mainstream, serious and widely attractive concept where real prevention and stress-reduction take place.&rdquo She comments that the core of this progression is the integration of &ldquoevidenced-based modalities. Those approaches have clinical evidence behind them so there are real results which consumers increasingly demand.&rdquo

Champneys owner Stephen Purdew adds: &ldquoOur healthy eating options, for example, are carefully considered down to the very last detail. I think our guests really appreciate and understand that we are a wellbeing destination spa &ndash this is where our energies are focused. Our wellbeing values are not a token gesture it is our ethos across all of our spa resorts, and we constantly research worldwide to evolve.&rdquo

Global spa trends

As spas seek to develop new, exciting and effective treatments for guests, the industry has begun searching for new global influences from across the world. Paul Joseph comments on this phenomenon, saying: &ldquoMore world spas now enable you to dip your toes in another country's culture and experience your destination on a holistic level.&rdquo

As Beth McGroarty points out, this is a stark contrast from the spas of the 80s and 90s, which &ldquolooked very much the same - a generic, beige, vaguely Asian space with a few massages.&rdquo Now, she says, &ldquoglobalisation has made spa-goers more keenly aware of indigenous spa and wellness practices from around the world. So, we have access to and knowledge of every kind of massage imaginable from Thai to Indian varietals, and excitement around so many global experiences, whether it be the Middle Eastern hammam, Mexican temezcal or Russian banya.&rdquo

However, it&rsquos not just a taste of different cultures that spa customers desire, they are also increasingly attracted to hyper-local offerings. Beth notes: &ldquoThe biggest trend in travel in the last few years is people&rsquos seemingly insatiable quest to experience the authentic and indigenous - and it extends to what they want in spa experiences. So, spas are using local ingredients, even grown on-site, and practices for what you could call a farm-to-massage-table movement.&rdquo

Champneys owner Stephen Purdew comments: &ldquoOur Detox and Wellbeing Centre at Champneys Tring was the first of its kind in the UK. The size alone - 400 square metres &ndash provides an amazing offering for our residents and day guests. It&rsquos a development that underlines our position as a leading wellness destination in Europe.&rdquo

Tailored treatments

As spas have looked further afield for influence, they have also focused on providing more tailored treatments for different conditions and demographics. Chris explains: &ldquoSpas are now becoming much better at offering tailored, medical spa treatments to guests who can't always enjoy the more traditional spa treatments. It's rare not to find pregnancy-related treatments on the list at your local spa, and some venues are training massage therapists specifically to assist cancer patients after it being a real taboo subject for a number of years.&rdquo

Beth McGroarty predicts that this tailoring of day spa packages will not only cater to specific individuals&rsquo needs but will also foster a holistic community impact. This is as much a return to the spa&rsquos roots as it is a development. Even in the Roman era, spas were more than just bathing areas, they were all-encompassing recreational centres. As Mikkel Aaland suggests in his book Sweat, &ldquomost spa walls (in Roman times) enclosed sports centres, swimming pools, parks, libraries, little theatres for poetry readings and music, and great halls for parties &ndash a city within a city.&rdquo Today, Beth anticipates more social and fun aspects will come to spas, &ldquofrom more art, music and creativity programming at spas to things like the sauna as a social event.&rdquo

Broadening horizons

The most inventive of spas are not only widening their offerings and influences but are broadening their horizons outside of the building and into nature itself. Beth McGroarty comments on these so-called destination spas: &ldquoA big trend at the moment is to move the spa experiences and treatment rooms outside and deeper into nature: whether they're played out in treehouses, gardens, by the ocean or in the forest &ndash while simultaneously bringing more nature inside the spa.&rdquo This encapsulates everything from outdoor guided exercise sessions to natural décor inside the building and botanicals in treatments, aimed at connecting mind, body and soul. Paul Joseph suggests that this recent move is premised on fostering a connection with the local environment as a means to balance the individual, explaining: &ldquoMore innovative spas have created treatments based on their local culture and customs and turning back to nature.&rdquo

Champneys Fitness Director Louise Day explains: &ldquoOur selection of outdoor classes is one of the best. Our countryside resorts are perfectly positioned, so we like to incorporate our natural environment as much as possible. We&rsquore very reactive to trends quite often we&rsquore the first to introduce programmes &ndash in this day and age it&rsquos important that spas offer something different. Our boot camps, for example, have really taken off. Led by top fitness and nutrition experts, our team motivate and guide participants through an intensive weight loss package that includes fun indoor and outdoor activities, team games, health and weight monitoring and healthy food options. We inspire them to make positive lifestyle changes.&rdquo

What&rsquos the future of spa and spa treatments?

With the modern-day spa having come so far from the thermae and baths of ancient history, what is in store for spas and spa treatments in the coming years? Beth McGroarty predicts that, in the future, &ldquowellness programming will continue to move out of the confined walls of the spa and get incorporated throughout the entire resort, whether baked into the physical building (wellness architecture) or in healthy food, sleep, classes &ndash everything &ndash infused throughout the property.&rdquo

A holistic approach is the key to the spa&rsquos future, from health management retreats to life coaching we can expect to see spas revert more to community spaces that offer a large range of services as opposed to just traditional treatments.

Whatever the future of the spa brings, it is sure to be an exciting and inspirational journey founded on a rich history of nature, healing and exploration. If you&rsquod like to book one of our spa days, we have a large selection of tailored treatments and wellbeing experiences perfect for any kind of spa-goer.

7. Temple Courtyard

The Temple Courtyard was a sacred space within the Roman Baths used for Roman worshippers to gather and pray.

Above the ruins, there was a projector screen showing a reconstructed animation of the courtyard, which gave me an idea of the site’s original state.

I also saw the famous gilt bronze head of Sulis Minerva here, arguably one of the most famous Roman Britain relics.

Watch the video: Römische Thermen (January 2022).