The Lure of the Past: Ancient Balneology at the Turn of the Eighteenth Century

Giacomo Savani

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This article focuses on two central figures in the burgeoning balneological debate at the turn of the eighteenth century: John Floyer (1649–1734), a supporter of the healing virtues of cold bathing, and Thomas Guidott (1638–1706), who championed the benefits of the hot springs at Bath. Baths were recognised as essential in the healthy routine of the ancients and prescribed for all sorts of ailments. Ancient practices greatly influenced Floyer and Guidott, and their treatises abound with references to Hippocrates and Galen, but also Tacitus and Suetonius. The accuracy of these historical digressions was crucial to legitimising their medical claims. Moreover, these authors offered different interpretations of the past to push moral and religious agendas or glorify the antiquity of a practice. By looking at the way they engaged with ancient sources, the paper aims to reveal the role played by the past in the construction of contemporary medical discourse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433–445
JournalJournal for Eighteenth-Century Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Balneology
  • Classical reception
  • History of medicine
  • John Floyer
  • Thomas Guidott
  • Eighteenth Century
  • Bath
  • Bathing


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