Everyday Objects, Part Three: A Brief History of Showering

By: The Scribe on Monday, May 20, 2013

ancient showerThese days, we take our morning showers for granted… hot water, soap, and suds galore… but what did folks do in the days before modern plumbing? And who came up with the idea of pouring water on our heads instead of just sitting in it?

We’re smarter than we give ourselves credit for, sometimes—ancient man’s original showers weren’t indoors, but then again, they didn’t have to pay for plumbing, either. Ever heard of a little thing called a waterfall? Ah, yes. The original shower.

But as we developed a taste for a roof over our heads and the comforts of convenience, ancient societies used jugs of water poured over the head after washing—though this was done more to rinse after a bath, rather than the sole method of cleaning.

While the elite classes of Egyptians and Mesopotamians in ancient times had “shower rooms”, these weren’t showers the way we think of them—more like servants pouring water over their heads. So, effortless in the way a modern shower is… unless you’re the servant.

roman bathThe first version of a “modern” shower appears in the historical records with the ancient Greeks! In addition to “showering” from streams of water that poured from spouts on the sides of public fountains, the Greeks were known for having large, communal shower rooms—precursors to the popular Roman baths of the later era. The ancient Greeks had the ability to build extensive aqueduct and sewage systems that allowed water to be pumped through lead pipes and drained afterward.

Some of these rooms were found in archaeological excavations at Pergamon, and evidence shows that both elite and common people were able to access these facilities. Still, bathing and showering wasn’t considered an everyday occurrence until the Romans built their baths across the Mediterranean (and even into England!).

showerSadly, after the decline of the Greeks and the fall of the Roman empire, these advanced water supply and sewage systems fell out of use—and nothing as complex would appear in society again until, believe it or not, the 19th century!


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