The Story of Spa
“Sanus Per Aquam”
The Greeks began bathing routines that formed the foundation for modern spa practices today. The earliest findings are from palatial baths at Knossos, Crete, and the luxurious alabaster bathtubs excavated in Akrotiri, Santorini, dating back to the mid 2nd millennium BC.
01 The Gift of Nature
In general, Greece is one of the few countries in the world, to be gifted with natural resources such as plants and herbs that cure. It is the country of olive oil, of wheat and wine, the Mediterranean trilogy, each of them with a tremendous lot of applications in cosmetics. Therefore, among all the wonders of Greek nature are the springs, thermal waters and the sea itself, the Mediterranean.
02 The Loutron
The history of bathing in ancient Greece begins from the place of the so called Gymnasium. By incorporating full washing bathing facilities into its regular program, Gymnasium created the social and architectural context for one of the earliest forms of communal bathing in ancient society. In ancient Gymnasium the loutron, was the only space related to washing and bathing. It was an open space, where bathing took place with the use of cold water, through elevated basins or simple shower arrangements.
03 Imbalance of the bodily fluids
In Homeric times, bathing was primarily used for cleansing and hygienic purposes. By the time of Hippocrates (460-370 BC), bathing was considered more than a simple hygienic measure; it was healthy and beneficial for most diseases. Hippocrates proposed the hypothesis that the cause of all diseases lay in an imbalance of the bodily fluids. To regain the balance a change of habits and environment was advised, which included bathing, perspiration, walking, and massages.
04 The Public Baths
The ancient Greeks believed in the therapeutic benefits of hot bath and mineral waters. They even indulged in the practice in bathing in the ocean for medicinal uses. Although largely reserved for the wealthy class, the concept soon came out to the public in the form of public baths whereupon they rapidly became worship centers for resident deities.
05 It was the Greeks
Nevertheless, it was the Greeks, attracted by the strange phenomena of thermal springs that attempted to classify them and study their properties and effects on man. Herodotus was the first to establish the precise methods of balneotherapeutic practices, but it was Hippocrates, the most celebrated physician of antiquity, who dedicated a large section to the therapeutic properties of thermal water in his work De aere, aquis at loci.
06 Back to 500 BC
In the Homeric poems and in Hesiod continuous references are made to the use of baths. After the difficulties encountered in battle or long journeys, heroes welcomed the coolness or wellness of a long restorative bath. Early Greek baths were constructed near naturally occurring hot springs or volcanoes, dating back to 500 BC Social gatherings often centered around these mineral and thermal baths. Some of Greece’s famous philosophers wrote of the benefits of hydrotherapy, including Hippocrates and Plato.
07 The Ancient Baths
Since very early times many different cultures have enjoyed the benefits of soaking in hot water. Following is a summary of how the spa bath has developed into what we use today. In the Pre-Hellenic civilization of the Aegean great use was made of baths. The buildings of Knossos, Festus and Tirinto, contain different types of bath chambers. The baths, perfusions of healing water, were usually accompanied by the sound of musical instruments. These baths were popularly called aquae, while the treatments undertaken at these aquae were known as Sanus per Aquam -of that SPA is taken into account to be an acronym- which means health by or through water.
08 History of Cosmetics
The roots of history of natural cosmetics goes way back into the gorges of time to all the great civilisations. Caring for the body and striving to make it more attractive is as old as the human existence. The etymology of word cosmetic comes from the Greek word kosmetikos, meaning a sense of harmony, order and tranquility. The endless pursuit of adhering to the ‘ideal of beauty’, made women to discover a multitude of tricks and recipes to acquire the look of the day. The women of Ancient Greece took great pride in their physical appearance. Not surprisingly, it is known that most beauty products in ancient Greece were made from pure indigenous ingredients found in their natural environment. Honey, roses, peppermint, rosemary, aloe, sage, olive oil, myrtle, sesame oil, and almond oil are just a few examples of the treasures that can be found in Greece. Particularly in the Minoan and Mycenaean civilization were separate areas (myrepsia) manufacturing beauty products, ointments and perfumes. Such elements found in the palace of Zakros (first half 15th century), the palace of Pylos (late 13th century) and the House of the Sphinxes at Mycenae.
09 Natural Spa Resources
Spring waters in Greece have been around since highest antiquity and many were considered sacred and gave way to construction of temples, like in Delphi, the Castalia spring and in Vravrona. Since the spa is the temple of the 21st century, it is only natural that thalassotherapy complexes and thermal spas are built today in exceptionally gifted places. The Thermae Sylla of Aedipsos and Loutraki Municipal Thermal Spa, are two striking examples of the best use that Greece can make of its natural resources.