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Bathing Culture and the Development of Urban Space: Case Study Pompeii

Fig 1: Republican Baths: location of trenches

Fig 1: Republican Baths: location of trenches
Bildquelle: Topoi Project/FU Berlin

Fig. 2: Stabian Baths: location of trenches

Fig. 2: Stabian Baths: location of trenches
Bildquelle: Topoi Project/FU Berlin

Stabian Baths: preliminary reconstruction of the original baths, built after 130/125 BC

Fig. 3: Stabian Baths: preliminary reconstruction of the original baths, built after 130/125 BC
Bildquelle: Topoi Project/FU Berlin

Fig. 4: Republican Baths: preliminary reconstruction of the original baths (on top of the new state plan), built around 150 BC

Fig. 4: Republican Baths: preliminary reconstruction of the original baths (on top of the new state plan), built around 150 BC
Bildquelle: Topoi Project/FU Berlin


The development of a public collective bathing culture in Antiquity impacted directly on the formation of urban space and the socio-cultural function and perception of cities. The existence, location, accessibility, architectural context and infrastructure of public baths reflect changing standards and priorities of urban planning and lifestyle.

The first public baths (ca. 450 BC onwards) focused on individual bathing and cleansing aspects. In the Hellenistic period (3rd century BC onwards), there was a general trend towards more luxurious, innovative, collective, relaxing bathing forms. In the 2nd century BC, bathing programs were focused entirely on providing facilities for social and relaxing bathing. This final step required crucial innovations in technology and social concepts usually connected with Roman culture.

While the development of a specific Roman bathing culture in the Late Republican period currently is much debated, this topic is largely neglected in Pompeii, although the city includes three large baths dated to this period (Republican Baths, Stabian Baths, Forum Baths). This project examines the development, function, and cultural and sociohistorical context of the Republican Baths and Stabian Baths at Pompeii and their role in the urban development.

With its comprehensive reassessment of two key areas of Pompeii and its overarching focus on the multifaceted phenomenon of cityscaping, this project aims at contributing, beyond Pompeii and bathing culture, to current debates on the urbanization of Italy and the sociocultural, economic and political conditions, influences, and agents of this process. 


So far, seven field seasons were carried out jointly with the University of Oxford, four focused on the Republican Baths (fig. 1: 2015, 2016, 2019) and three focused on the Stabian Baths (fig. 2: 2016, 2017, 2018). Seasons comprised new stratigraphic excavations, investigations in archives and magazines, and detailed assessments of all standing remains, including the newest available 3D documentation and modelling techniques as well as traditional documentation methods. While fieldwork in the Republican Baths is completed, another final season is necessary in the Stabian Baths, planned for 2020.

This project was carried out within the framework of the Excellence Cluster Topoi, group C-6 on “Cityscaping” and was generously funded by Topoi (2015-2018) and by the Freie Universität (2019). Fieldwork on site was carried out with generous permission and support of the Parco Archeologico di Pompei with its director Massimo Osanna.


The Stabian Baths are a key area for reconstructing the urban development of Pompeii and for studying the development of ancient bathing culture. According to Hans Eschebach (1979), the area was first occupied by an Archaic Altstadtmauer and from the 5th century BC onwards by a Greek palaestra with individual bathing cells that was gradually transforming, in five phases, into a Roman-type bath. Our excavations have shown that there is no trace of an early city wall at all, and that the Stabian Baths were only built in the late 2nd century BC and from the outset as Roman-type public bath. The complex was three times remodeled in line with new trends (after 80 BC, in the early 1st century AD, and between AD 41 and 79), and remained in use until the end of Pompeii in AD 79 (fig. 3).

The Republican Baths received little attention after their excavation and preliminary publication in 1950, although the area is central for the urban development of Pompeii. The project achieved two major goals: for the first time, the Republican Baths, have been fully documented and analyzed using both traditional and state of the art digital approaches. Second, the barely examined and debated construction date and history of the complex as well as the functioning of its technology (water management, heating system) could be clarified. The Republican Baths developed as a private complex in the mid-2nd century BC and underwent several changes, which seem to have been mainly driven by practical necessities and less by new trends. While the Stabian Baths profited from the introduction of piped water into the city in the early Imperial period, the Republican Baths were abandoned around 30/20 BC and taken over by the owner of an adjacent house. The new owner used the terrain of the baths for a garden peristyle complex, which was once remodeled before it was significantly destroyed in the earthquake of AD 62. After this date, the terrain of the former baths was largely left in ruins and transformed into a building yard for quarrying volcanic ash and possibly for dumping building debris (fig. 4).

The project has shown that current understanding of the early phases of urban development in Pompeii must be revised, and has identified a direct link between urban development and the development of bathing culture: key points in the city’s development such as the transformation into a Roman colony in 80 BC and particularly the connection to the Serino aqueduct in the early Imperial period directly impacted on the baths studied – positively in the case of the Stabian Baths, negatively in the case of the Republican Baths.



  • Dr. Clemens Brünenberg; Fachbereich Architektur, Fachgebiet Klassische Archäologie, Technische Universität Darmstadt
  • Dr. Jens-Arne Dickmann, Institut für Archäologische Wissenschaften, Klassische Archäologie, Universität Freiburg
  • Dr. Domenico Esposito, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut Berlin
  • Dr. Antonio Ferrandes, Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia, Sapienza Università di Roma
  • Thomas Heide, MA, Doktorand, Institut für Klassische Archäologie, FU Berlin
  • Prof. Dr. Dominik Lengyel, Architektur und Visualisierung, Brandenburgische Technische Universität Cottbus-Senftenberg
  • Dr. Giacomo Pardini, Dipartimento di Scienze del Patrimonio Culturale/DISPAC, Università degli Studi di Salerno
  • Prof. Dr. Cees Passchier, Institut für Geowissenschaften, Universität Mainz
  • Alessandra Pegurri, MA, PhD candidate, Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester
  • Prof. Dr. Mark Robinson, Environmental Archaeology, University of Oxford
  • Jennifer Robinson, Environmental Archaeology, Oxford
  • Dr. Christoph Rummel, Römisch-Germanische Kommission, Frankfurt am Main
  • Martin Strauß, MA Student, Wasserbau/ Ingenieurswissenschaften, Technische Hochschule Lübeck
  • Dr. Gül Sürmelihindi, Institut für Geowissenschaften, Universität Mainz
  • Catherine Toulouse, Selbständige Architektin
  • Dr. Kai Wellbrock, Wasserbau/ Ingenieurswissenschaften, Technische Hochschule Lübeck



Trümper, M.: South Baths at Morgantina: Assessment of the Heating System in the Context of Graeco-Roman Public Baths, in: L. Maniscalco (Hrsg.), Morgantina Duemilaquindici. La ricerca archeologica a sessant’anni dall’avvio degli scavi (Palermo 2015) 102-114

Trümper, M.: Curare se stessi. Bagni e terme a Pompei, in: M. Osanna – C. Rescigno (Hrsg.), Pompei e i Greci (Milano 2017) 262-267

Trümper, M.: Water Management of the Stabian Baths at Pompeii: A Reassessment, in: G. Wiplinger (ed.), Wasserwesen zur Zeit des Frontinus. Bauwerke – Technik – Kultur, Frontinus Symposion Trier Mai 2016 (Leuven 2017) 257-272

Trümper, M.: Gymnasium, Palaestra, Campus and Bathing in Late Hellenistic Pompeii: A Reassessment of the Urban Context of the Republican Baths (VIII 5, 36), in: U. Mania – M. Trümper (eds.), Development of Gymnasia and Graeco-Roman Cityscapes (Berlin 2018) 87-113

Henzel, R. – M. Trümper: Crowded or Empty Spaces? The Statuary Decoration of the ‘Palaestrae’ in Pompeii and Herculaneum, in: U. Mania – M. Trümper (eds.), Development of Gymnasia and Graeco-Roman Cityscapes (Berlin 2018) 115-142

Trümper M.: Logistics of Building Processes: the Stabian Baths in Pompeii, in: C. Recko – M. Heinzelmann (eds.), Part 3.16 of Proceedings of the 19th International Congress of Classical Archaeology, Cologne/Bonn, May 2018 (Propyleum online 2019; 3.200 words)

Trümper, M.: Development of Bathing Culture in Hellenistic Sicily, in: M. Trümper – G. Adornato – Th. Lappi (Hrsg.), Cityscapes of Hellenistic Sicily (Rom 2019) 347-391

Trümper, M., C. Brünenberg, J.-A. Dickmann, D. Esposito, A. F. Ferrandes, G. Pardini, A. Pegurri, M. Robinson, C. Rummel: Stabian Baths in Pompeii: New Research on the Development of Ancient Bathing Culture, RM 125, 2019, 1-56

Trümper, M.: Republican Baths to Casa della Calce. A Radical Transformation Process in Pompeii, in: K. Piesker - U. Wulf-Rheidt [†] (eds.), Umgebaut. Umbau-, Umnutzungs- und Umwertungsprozesse in der antiken Architektur. DiskAB 13 (Regensburg 2020) 11-28

Trümper, M.: Water Management of Late Republican Baths, in: S. Bouffier – I. Fumadó Ortega (eds.), L'eau dans tous ses états (Aix-en-Provence 2020) (8.000 words)



Republican Baths
Fasti Online: Pompeii, Republican Baths (VIII 5, 36)

- Fasti OnLine - Season 2015.pdf
- Fasti OnLine - Season 2016.pdf
- Fasti OnLine - Season 2019.pdf
- Plan Trenches 2015-2019.pdf

Stabian Baths
Fasti Online: Pompeii, Stabian Baths (VII, 8)

- Fasti OnLine - Season 2015.pdf
- Fasti OnLine - Season 2016.pdf
- Fasti OnLine - Season 2017.pdf
- Fasti OnLine - Season 2018.pdf
- Plan Trenches 2016-2018.pdf



ZDF Terra X Verlorenes Wissen: Sonnenpillen und Superbeton der Antike; 30.6.2019; https://www.zdf.de/dokumentation/terra-x/verlorenes-wissen-mit-harald-lesch-sonnenpillen-und-der-superbeton-der-antike-100.html

Forschergeist FG041 Klassische Archäologie; Podcast: Interview des Stifterverbandes mit Monika Trümper; Dezember 2016; https://fyyd.de/episode/1499194

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Der mannigfaltigste Lärm umrauscht mich von allen Seiten: Fundiert, Wissenschaftsmagazin der FU Berlin, 13.10.2016; https://www.fu-berlin.de/presse/publikationen/fundiert/2016_01/10-baeder/index.html

Water and Bathing, Archaeology magazine July/August 2019; https://www.archaeology.org/issues/344-1907/features/7717-pompeii-water-bathing