One of the highlights of our visit to Masada was entering the large bath house complex which was built by King Herod. As you enter the outer courtyard of the bath house you can see a model of what it would have looked like. This helped to visualize the bath house which was an integral and vital part of Roman culture. The bath houses were not only for washing but also for relaxing, enjoying spa-type treatments and for socializing. Private bath houses were a luxury afforded only by the very wealthy, especially for those living on Masada in the middle of a desert where water was a rare and valuable commodity.
The bathhouse is located south of the Northern Palace and has four rooms. On the floor of the outer courtyard is what remains of a mosaic made up of tiny tiles. The Romans would exercise in this courtyard before entering the bath house.
The hot room floor has been partially reconstructed so that visitors can get an idea of what it would have looked like. 200 short clay pillars beneath the floor created an open space beneath the floor. A furnace would pump hot air into the space beneath the floor where it would circulate and create heat. The heat rising from the floor produced a Turkish-bath effect, like a sauna. In addition, the walls were lined with hollow clay pipes which were pumped full of hot air. When you exit the bath house you can see where the furnace would have stood to warm the waters and pump hot air through a hole in the bath house wall into the area beneath the floor.
Come see it for yourself on our next tour to Israel. For more information, click here.