In the beginning, there was water.
And while it’s integral to our existence, we’ve also come to realize it feels pretty good when warm. So good, in fact, that an entire profession emerged to provide everyone the benefits of hot water.
But we all know it’s more than that. To look at a hot tub now is to look at the sum of decades worth of invention and innovation, a history of problem solving and change.
To honor that entrepreneurial spirit, we’re taking a look back at the history of hot tubs. While it’s not comprehensive by any means, it hopefully serves as a friendly reminder that the industry, at such a young age, has accomplished so much.
And the exciting thing? Who knows where it’ll go next.
In contrast to a typical bathtub, a hot tub is designed to be used by more than one person at a time, with many models accommodating four people. Hot tubs are usually located outdoors, although they can be installed indoors. Also, the water in a hot tub is not changed with each use, but is kept sanitary using methods similar to those used for swimming pool sanitation. Another difference between baths and hot tubs is that soaps and shampoos are not used in wet-jetted hot tubs (although they can be used in air-jetted hot tubs).
From early times, people from the four corners of the globe have benefited from the therapeutic qualities of hot water. Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Turkish, Japanese, and Nordic cultures have long partaken in hot springs baths.
Ancient Egypt – 2000 B.C.
Archeological evidence shows that as early as 4,000 years ago, hot therapeutic baths were enjoyed by the early Egyptians.
Perhaps the first known hot tub was chiseled of solid granite for King Phraortes of ancient Persia (then called Media) in about 600 B.C. The Persians went on to conquer Egypt in 525 B.C., but we don’t know if the invigorating aspects of hot tubs had anything to do with that adventurism
The Greek 500B.C.
We do know from the writings of the great philosophers of Greece, including Plato, Homer, and Hippocrates, that the therapeutic value of hot water was appreciated and well understood. Grecians built elaborate structures around hot water springs.
The Greeks often centered social activities around public bathing establishments.
Roman Baths – 25 B.C.
Emperor Agrippa designed Rome’s first large-scale spa, originally called a thermae. Typical of Roman rulers, each subsequent emperor would outdo his predecessor in designing and building ever more extravagant facilities.
It is a little known fact that word SPA is actually an acronym originating from the Roman Empire as well. When battle weary legionnaires tried to find a way to recover from their military wounds and ailments, they sought out hot wells and then built baths to heal their aching bodies. They named these bathing treatments “Sanus Per Aquam” (S. P. A.) meaning “health through water.” The Belgian town of Spa was founded for this purpose, renowned throughout Europe the 14th century, and still existing to this day.
Over time health spas were built across the Roman Empire, from Africa to England. These evolved gradually into full-scale entertainment complexes featuring sports arenas, massage parlors, restaurants, and even the occasional brothel.
A typical routine consisted of a workout in the palestra or arena, followed by a visit to three progressively warmer rooms where the body was alternately bathed, anointed with oils, massaged, and exfoliated.
The ritual ended with a bracing cold-water dip in the frigidarium followed by relaxation in the library room.
Hot water’s healing power has been revered for thousands of years in Asian culture, from China to Japan. The Japanese even have a saying, known as Mizu-no-Kokoro which translates: Mind Like Water, referring to a peaceful state of being in harmony with all things.
In Japan, hot water bathing in freestanding wooden tubs called ofuro has been a family custom for centuries. Occupation forces brought knowledge and admiration of this custom home with them after World War II. Hot water soaking has always been popular with Japanese Americans.
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