SPA History

What is the origin of the term “spa”?

Although there is no definitive explanation as to when the term spa became connected with healing techniques, there are two prominent explanations about its etymology:

– The term ‘Spa’ is an abbreviation for the Latin word ‘Salus per Aquam,’ which translates as ‘health from water.’
– Spa is named after the Belgian village of Spa, where Roman soldiers used hot mineral springs to cure aching muscles and war wounds.

Spas, how old are they?

While many people identify traditional spas with Roman baths, evidence of spa-type therapies dates back thousands of years to a belief in the therapeutic qualities of mineral fluids. “Spas, healing waters, thalassotherapy, hydrotherapy, and hot springs date back thousands of years – an ancient tradition used far before the Greeks and Romans!” says Paul Joseph, co-founder of Health & Fitness Travel.

Hippocrates, an ancient Greek philosopher who lived between 460 and 370 B.C., wrote one of the first written records of bathing being utilized as a healing process rather than basic cleanliness practice. Hippocrates maintained that the root cause of all ailments was an imbalance of physiological fluids, and he urged that “the route to health is to have an aromatic bath and scented massage every day.”

Balneotherapy is the process of employing bathing to treat sickness and is considered the foundation principle of spa-going. Its effect can still be evident today in anything from mineral-infused treatments to leaping in the hot tub after a swim to thalassotherapy, which involves swimming in seawater to repair the skin.

During Augustus’ rule from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D., the primary function of therapeutic baths was to cure the wounds of Roman soldiers. There were roughly 170 baths, known as thermae, in Rome at the time, and it didn’t take long for all of the city’s people to consider baths as a kind of rest and relaxation. The Romans erected the first thermae bath facility in Britain near Bath’s hot springs about 70 A.D.

Collin le Loup, an ironmaster from Liège, Belgium, discovered the chalybeate springs at Spa, Belgium, in 1326. The term “spa” came to refer to any health resort located near natural springs, with individual springs being connected with the condition they were considered to benefit.

However, rituals linked with spa-going were growing around the world, not only in Europe. Healing facilities ranging from Japanese ryokan to Turkish hammams and Finnish saunas/steam rooms were sprouting up all over the world. Spa resorts were thoroughly embedded in British culture by the Elizabethan era, and they have subsequently become more modern while remaining true to their simple, restorative origins.