whether in any case the air of the laconicum was free from vapour. These baths, with their various modifications, have become extremely popular in Great Britain, in Germany and in northern Europe, but have, curiously enough, never been used extensively in France, notwithstanding the familiarity of the French with Turkish baths in Algiers.
In England hot air baths are now employed very extensively. They are often associated with Turkish and electric baths.
Bathing among the ancients was practised in various forms. It was sometimes a simple bath in cold or in tepid water; but at least, in the case of the higher orders, it usually included a hot air or vapour bath, and was followed by affusion of cold or warm water, and generally by a plunge into the piscina. In like manner the order varies in which the different processes are gone through in Turkish baths in modern Europe. Thus in the baths in Vienna, the process begins by immersion in a large basin of warm water. Sudation is repeatedly interrupted by cold douches at the will of the bathers, and after the bath they are satisfied with a short stay in the cooling-room, where they have only a simple sheet rolled round them. In Copenhagen and in Stockholm the Oriental baths have been considerably modified by their association with hydropathic practices.
This leads us to notice the introduction of the curiously misnamed system known as hydropathy (q.v.). Although cold baths were in vogue for a time in Rome, warm baths were always more popular. Floyer, as we have seen, did something to revive their use in England; but it was nearly a century and a half afterwards that a Silesian peasant, Priessnitz, introduced, with wonderful success, a variety of operations with cold water, the most important of which was the packing the patient in a wet sheet, a process which after a time is followed by profuse sudation. Large establishments for carrying out this mode of bathing and its modifications were erected in many places on the continent and in Great Britain, and enjoyed at one time a large share of popularity. The name “hydropathic” is still retained for these establishments, though hydropathy so-called is no longer practised within them to any extent.
But the greatest and most important development of ordinary baths in modern times was in England, though it has extended gradually to some parts of the continent. The English had long used affusion and swimming-baths freely in India. Cold and hot baths and shower baths have been introduced into private houses to an extent never known before; and, since 1842, public swimming-baths, besides separate baths, have been supplied to the public at very moderate rates, in some cases associated with wash-houses for the poorer classes. Their number has increased rapidly in London and in the principal continental cities. Floating-baths in rivers, always known in some German towns, have become common wherever there are flowing streams. The better supply of most European cities with water has aided in this movement. Ample enclosed swimming-baths have been erected at many seaside places. When required, the water, if not heated in a boiler, is raised to a sufficient temperature by the aid of hot water pipes or of steam. Separate baths used to be of wood, painted; they are now most frequently of metal, painted or lined with porcelain enamel. The swimming-baths are lined with cement, tiles or marble and porcelain slabs; and a good deal of ornamentation and painting of the walls and ceiling of the apartments, in imitation of the ancients, has been attempted.
We have thus traced in outline the history of baths through successive ages. The medium of the baths spoken of thus far has been water, vapour or dry hot air. But baths of more complex nature, and of the greatest variety, have been in use from the earliest ages. The best known media are the various mineral waters and sea-water. Of baths of mineral substances, those of sand are the oldest and best known; the practice of arenation or of burying the body in the sand of the sea-shore, or in heated sand near some hot spring, is very ancient, as also that of applying heated sand to various parts of the body. Baths of peat earth are of comparatively recent origin. The peat earth is carefully prepared and pulverized, and then worked up with water into a pasty consistence, of which the temperature can be regulated before the patient immerses himself in it.
There are various terms that may be termed chemical, in which chlorine or hydrochloric acid is added to the water of the bath, or where fumes of sulphur are made to rise and envelop the body.
Of vegetable baths the number is very large. Lees of wine, in a state of fermentation, have been employed. An immense variety of aromatic herbs have been used to impregnate water with. At one time fuci or sea-weed were added to baths, under the idea of conveying into the system the iodine which they contain; but by far the most popular of all vegetable baths are those made with an extract got by distilling certain varieties of pine leaves.
The strangeness of the baths of animal substances, that have been at various times in use, is such that their employment seems scarcely credible. That baths of milk or of whey might be not unpopular is not surprising, but baths of blood, in some cases even of human blood, have been used; and baths of horse dung were for many ages in high favour, and were even succeeded for a short time by baths of guano.
Electrical baths are now largely used, a current being passed through the water; and electrical massage, by the d’Arsonval or other system, is colloquially termed a “bath.”
Baths also of compressed air, in which the patient is subjected to the pressure of two or three atmospheres, were formerly employed in some places.
A sun bath (insolatio or heliosis), exposing the body to the sun, the head being covered, was a favourite practice among the Greeks and Romans.
Some special devices require a few words of explanation.
Douches were used by the ancients, and have always been an important mode of applying water to a circumscribed portion of the body. They are, in fact, spouts of water, varying in size and temperature, applied by a hose-pipe with more or less force for a longer or shorter time against particular parts. A douche exercises a certain amount of friction, and a continued impulse on the spot to which it is applied, which stimulate the skin and the parts beneath it, quickening the capillary circulation. The effects of the douche are so powerful that it cannot be applied for more than a few minutes continuously. The alternation of hot and cold douches, which for some unknown reason has got the name of Écossaise, is a very potent type of bath from the strong action and reaction which it produces. The shower bath may be regarded as a union of an immense number of fine douches projected on the head and shoulders. It produces a strong effect on the nervous system. An ingenious contrivance for giving circular spray baths, by which water is propelled laterally in fine streams against every portion of the surface of the body, is now common.
To all these modes of acting on the cutaneous surface and circulation must be added dry rubbing, as practised by the patient with the flesh glove, but much more thoroughly by the bath attendants, if properly instructed (see also Massage).
Action of Baths on the Human System.—The primary operation of baths is the action of heat and cold on the cutaneous surfaces through the medium of water.
The first purpose of baths is simply that of abstersion and cleanliness, to remove any foreign impurity from the surface, and to prevent the pores from being clogged by their own secretions or by desquamations of cuticle. It need scarcely be said that such objects are greatly promoted by the action of the alkali of soaps and by friction; that the use of warm water, owing to its immediate stimulation of the skin, promotes the separation of sordes, and that the vapour of water is still more efficient than water itself.
It has been supposed that water acts on the system by being absorbed through the skin, but, under ordinary circumstances, no water is absorbed, or, if any, so minute a quantity as not to be worth considering. No dissolved substances, under the ordinary circumstances of a bath, are actually absorbed into the system; although when a portion of skin has been entirely cleared of its sebaceous secretion, it is possible that a strong solution of salts