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Thermal Baths OF THE MEDITERRANEAN
WORLD HERITAGE SITE?

 

Since ancient times, the use of thermal water to cure all kinds of diseases and ailments has been a constant; however, it was not until the Roman civilization, as evidenced by archaeological finds and architectural monuments, when the rational exploitation of these springs began.

In the third millennium, new information technologies contribute to disclose their healing effects, promoting a new concept of water as a heritage site. In short, the culture of water as a source of health.

We are therefore facing a sociocultural phenomenon that transcends the limits of historiography, but that is still to be investigated in depth. Therefore, although we are aware that should've been a considerable number of spas during the early history and, more specifically, in the Roman Empire, only we could locate eight facilities, which were in full swing in times of Hadrian (74-138): Hierapolis (Pamukkake) in Anatolia; Hamman Meskkoutine (Algeria); the Malahá (Granada) in Baetica; Caldes de Montbui (Barcelona), in Tarragona; Caldes de Malavella (Girona), in Tarragona; Fountaine de Vaucluse (Provence) in Narbonensis, and Vals de Bains (L'Ardéche) in Lugdunensis

Each of those springs, alone, is worthy of study, although we have considered, because their interest, to present in more detail, one of the hot springs of the mythical city of Hierapolis, crowning the white summit Pamukkale, in the heart of Asia Minor (Anatolia) from Cappadocia and the Aegean Sea (Turkey), which, for its unique geological, hydrological, archaeological, architectural, landscaping, etc, and especially for being the most important so far discovered in Classical Antiquity, condensed remarkably well this kind of meticulously designed for the healing of the human body and health facilities.

CULTURE AND HERITAGE

But before we consider important an introduction about the trascendence and significance of the thermal Baths in the Greek and Roman worlds. An complete heritage culture in the service of health.

To the great Galeno (129-199) in the footsteps of the venerable Hippocrates (. 469-399 BC) there was nothing more purifying than a bath in all the elements of nature, combining heat and cold; and thus the basic factors of the cosmos: earth, water, air and fire. Massages and friction with soaps, perfumes, ointments and oils, each in its time, complementing the effect of water and helped achieve the intended effects.

The ancient Greeks and Romans, lovers hygiene and scented massage, went to the island of Ischia seeking remedy for their ills. The Emperor Augustus (29. BC) changed the island of Capri, which he owned, for this other, bigger and fertile. Even today, Lacco Ameno, country of perfumer Ursione, remains the center of the volcanic balneotherapy, with eleven different springs of healing waters that have different biominerals properties. Precisely this therapeutic action of water depends on its temperature, pressure, chemical composition, radioactivity, bacterial flora and dissolved gases.

Among the Romans baths using far exceeded that of the Greeks, creating countless Thermal Baths, the most important during the mandates of Nero an Vespasian. We may admire the grandeur of the Baths of Caracalla, capable for 3,000 people and Pompeii.

Medicinal mineral waters were seen as an expression of supernatural power of the gods and thermal baths, places of worship. The two major shrines like Epidaurus and Delphi, besides sanatoriums-places with healing properties given its characteristics- were religious centers where healing was a consequence of a attitude of faith and hope, a covenant between man and nature.

It was Greece who, with his philosophical and medical theories converts the primary and universal fact  of bathing in the sea, on the river, lake or pond -common in all cultures-in a complex technique that even required special buildings. However, it was the role of Rome and its engineering, who offered to those facilities a more complete and final version, and bequeathed with variations to all cultures that approached from Arab, Turkish to Russian or Finnish.

In Spain there are traces of many bathing establishments. In Ledesma (Salamanca) are the foundations of an ancient ark from which flows an abundant spring and next to it a pavement bathrooms. In Alange (Badajoz) we can admire two large roundabouts with bathrooms and numerous ruins of Roman times. Also in Sagunto (Valencia) are the ruins of magnificent Roman baths. The Roman Baths in Lugo, as installation of public character of the Roman era, is one of the most unusual in this type of public works in the Hispania Antigua.

CASTLE OF COTTON

Inside Turkey, halfway between Cappadocia (Anatolia) and the turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea, are the most spectacular limestone forms travertines (usually calcareous sediment, leaving some water) of the world, resulting from constant water flow to surface in geiser shaped.

Pamukkale: around this natural geological complex grew a major city known as Hierapolis, from the Greek colonization, although the most impressive archaeological remains are the work of the Romans. Here, according to story, was martyred San Felipe, place, high as a aerie, now known as Pamukkale, which in Turkish means "cotton castle".

We are therefore faced with the greatest surreal and natural scenery of the world. From afar, a stepped series of fossilized waterfalls is appreciated, but in constant turmoil, vivid and crystal. Close up, however, the landscape takes on dimensions of a fantastic water garden hanging about 200 meters in the air, where the clear water is pouring from pond to pond causing immense corolas of limestone similar to exotic flowers of tropical origin,dizzy whiteness bluish  and a unfading beauty.

The hot springs that flow from the interior of these calcareous soils are the source of this prodigy and the reason so many civilizations settlement here. Considering the history of Pamukkale according to the results of the excavations of the Austrian and Turkish archaeologists  working here for more a decade, the first civilizations that settled in this region were the Hittites (XII century B.C.); then the Phrygians (s. X  BC) and immediately later the Lydians. Persians also reached western Anatolia, dominating the region in the seventh century. (B. C.)

Hierapolis-name that took the city from the second century.( B.C.) grew around the springs during the Greek occupation; but it was in Roman times, from the year 129 B.C. C. When the bounties of nature began to be exploited, as evidenced under the amazing SPA buildings that still remain.

The baths of Hierapolis are without any doubt the most important of the Roman civilization; even exceed the size to which Agrippa (63-12 BC) ordered to build in Rome, and Antoninus Pius (86-161) in the city of Cartago.

SEA AND TECHNOLOGY

Is currently promoting what is known as Thalassotherapy, a Greek word meaning "sea therapy". Many scientists committed to the theory that life began in the sea and in the composition of sea water are elements such as oxygen, hydrogen, chlorine, silica, nitrogen, phosphorus, iodine, etc. This natural therapeutic system, dating back to Ancient Rome, covers three areas: the sea water (hydrotherapy), the sea air (aerotherapy) and solar radiation (heliotherapy). Today, no one doubts that the sea is a major source of health for our body.

The number of  spa patients coming to a thalassotherapy center has exploded to the point that in Spain, since 1990-2000, attendance has increased by 68 percent. The increase of this clientele is due in part to the social improvement of living standards in the country and other establishments have a better staff of highly qualified medical and paramedical personnel under continuous training, and cabins equipment are equipped with latest technology aparatajes.

If through history we know the meaning of water, modern societies today who know its importance and therapeutic effects that offers humanity strive to protect it as a capital asset. They do so using the network of information highways (Internet) as an image not only of modernity but challenging. Not surprisingly, the Internet is a medium that mutates very quickly, kept pace with computer technology.

MORE INFORMATION:
www.bodrumpages.com/English/Hierapolis.html
www.bodrumpages.com/deutsch/Pamukkale.html

MAYTE SUÁREZ SANTOS.
Science journalist specializing in Medicine and Balneology.
Member of the French Society of Thermalism and Thalassotherapy for the Oral and Dental Health

 
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