The origin of hamam goes back to the Romans. The excavations in Pompeii city which had been buried under the ashes of Vesuvius volcano revealed hamams used by the Romans. It was understood that these hamams were not used just for cleaning but also for entertainment. Because of the class distinction in Romans, the entry gates and the bathing areas of the aristocrats and slaves had been separated. There also had been places for steam baths, hot and cold pools in Roman hamams.
The Ottomans had conquered Istanbul. However, the Byzantine reflecting the impacts of the generous heritage inherited from Romans had conquered the Ottomans with its hamams as well as many other things. During the most splendid period of the empire, there had been a hamam including hot and cold baths, fountains, dome marble rooms, a weekly special day just for women, in all neighborhoods of the city.
The fundamental reason of the hamam’s becoming such important in the Ottoman culture is religion. Based on the Quran, cleaning is not an important but an essential component of the religion. These marble temples had enabled a community life formed of bath, massage and chat. Beside religion and health, making friends and finding a mate had also been important reasons for the people to visit hamams. Considering the Ottoman women’s lives just behind the close doors, hamams had been the only places in where they can socialize. Wealthy women having their private hamams at their houses had also come to the neighborhood hamam at least once a week.
People had been going to the hamam with their towel, scrub, henna, kohl, soap and pearl-studded clogs and a servant. This required a ceremonial preparation because the hamam had not been for couple of hours but for the whole day.
The hamam tradition which had been a significant symbol of cleaning, health, fun and sharing is still alive even if they are not as popular as the old times. Especially the historical hamams in Istanbul and Bursa which had served the Sultans, presents the purifying power of the water within their unique atmosphere from past to present.