Bathing on the edge of the Empire. A cross-cultural study of Roman baths in northern Gaul.

01 October 2018 → 30 September 2022
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Curatorial and related studies
    • History
    • Other history and archaeology
    • Art studies and sciences
    • Artistic design
    • Audiovisual art and digital media
    • Heritage
    • Music
    • Theatre and performance
    • Visual arts
    • Other arts
    • Product development
    • Study of regions
Roman baths
Project description

The Romans were the first to introduce communal bathing habits in northern Gaul (modern Belgium, Luxemburg and the southern 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. The methodology is particularly innovative, as the baths will be studied in their natural and cultural environment through GIS, on a local, regional and global scale.