Friday, January 7, 2011

Baths of the Crusader Period

Readers must think we "protesteth too much" when we say we aren't interested in the Christian/Arabic era of the city's history and then publish a blizzard of posts relating to these themes.

The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, we have mined out most of the Imperial period information and secondly some of the latter period information may have relevance back to the Imperial period.

We could not help thinking this when recently revisiting the volume, East and West in the Medieval Eastern Mediterrean: Antioch from the Byzantine reconquest until the end of the Crusader principality, edited by Krijna Nelly Ciggaar, David Michael Metcalf. The wide ranging list of essays here had previously been touched upon in reference to the Al-makarim travelography of the city.

While rereading the chapter on Adaptation to Oriental life by rulers in and around Antioch by Krijna Nelly Ciggaar we found mention of bathing practices. She notes "This takes us to the baths in Antioch of which several are mentioned in various Crusader sources: the balnea Tancredi (1131, 1140), the balnea dicta Omar (1140) and the two baths of the Hospitallers. One is reported in 1140, another was bought in 1186 by Brother Renard de Margat from the Mazoir family. Other baths are likely to have existed without being mentioned in the sources, such as the baths in private palaces and mansions".

One of the reasons why Antioch was always so well supplied with bathing establishments was its ample water supply. This makes us suspect, in light of the "make do and mend" nature of the city post-528 AD, that the baths of latter periods were probably just rebuilds of the baths that had existed from the Roman times reusing the connections to the still-functioning aqueduct system. The 1930s excavations mainly threw up the expansive baths of the Island and northern part of the city, both of which had been abandoned/depopulated in the 300s and following centuries. Thus the baths being discussed most probably were located in the densely populated section of the city south of the Parmenios which remains largely unexplored.

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