This web site results from a conservation project carried out in 2014-15 by ARCHiNOS Architecture in a Roman-period bathhouse in Karanis in Egypt. Its purpose is to present in an interactive way this remarkable building and the way in which it was used.
Welcome to the virtual journey to the edge of an oasis in Graeco-Roman Egypt some 1700 years ago.
Located at the edge of the Fayum Oasis next to the road from Cairo lie the ruins of Karanis (modern Kom Aushim), a Graeco-Roman town of mostly agricultural importance, founded as a settlement for Greek military veterans in the third century BC, and inhabited until the early sixth century AD. In the northern part of the enormous site covering 60 hectares, a small Roman-period bath is located.
Nowadays, we usually think of bathing in terms of washing. For the ancient Romans, it was much more, a significant part of the daily life, a social ritual and cultural event. Bathing in public was about much more than personal hygiene, and public bathhouses, often enormous and sumptuously decorated, were the gyms, social clubs, and community centres of the time.
The conquest by Alexander the Great put Egypt in the Mediterranean, Greek-influenced cultural sphere, where communal bathing was part of social life. Early public baths in Egypt featured circular rooms with many individual hip-baths against the walls. Under Roman rule, the capital Alexandria and major cities had monumental bath complexes, while smaller bathhouses were built in lesser cities.
For thousands of years the mighty crocodile-headed god Sobek was the protector of the Fayum and guardian of its people. In the Graeco-Roman times he became somewhat Hellenised and even fashionably took on Greek-sounding names, like Petsuchos and Soxis in Karanis, but he remained the protector of the oasis. Sobek will guide you on a journey back in time through the Roman bath in Karanis.