History of The Turkish Baths Hamam istanbul
History

History of The Turkish Baths – Hamam

History of The Turkish Baths Hamam
The tradition of baths and bathing is an integral part of the Anatolian culture range. Bronze and Iron Age palaces like Hattusas, Aslantepe and Zincirli have quite a developed bath, water and drainage equipment. The typical Greek and Hellenistic gymnasium of Asia Minor have baths and pools for the athletes to wash. The baths and gymnasium complexes in the Roman Imperial period reflect the deep-rooted history of Anatolia with its high vaulted halls, light and marble swimming pools.

As body cleanness is the first provision of Islam, Turks have considered baths important and gained a rightful fame. So, in the western world, when the baths are matter of subject, Turkish baths ( Hamam ) have always been remembered. While lots of Turkish baths ( Hamam ) were built after the conquest of Istanbul in Turkey , some notables of Istanbul had lots of Turkish baths ( Hamam ) built in their mansions, summerhouses and palaces. Some of these Turkish baths ( Hamam ) became public because of the demolishing of residences.

Most of the baths were built as waqf. After the second half of the 19th century, baths, which are owned by individuals, were built only for making profit of them. But, these are not too many. Waqf baths were donated to a mosque or a medresseh (theological school attached to a mosque) and the money gained from these Turkish bathes (Hamams) were spent on the care of these places and the people working there.

While the turkish baths ( Hamam ) were administered by trustees of waqf at first, then, they were hired to individuals with different methods. Since the period of the rent was more than 300 years, the baths were possessed by individuals rather than waqfs. So, except for one, there is no waqf baths in Istanbul today.

While the external view of a bath was not cared much, the interior of it was designed and built painstakingly. So, we have some Turkish baths which are considered to be an architectural masterpiece. On the other hand , we have some Turkish baths ( Hamam ) which have beautiful outer appearance; one of them is the one in the Ayasofya square.

The most imposing part of a bath is the place called ‘camekan’ – glassy partition-.In this part, there are dressing rooms, a fountain, roof lantern and sometimes a pond with fountain. In the place that is called as iliklik (tepidness) and sogukluk (coldness) there were shaving places and toilets.In the old times, people had a hair cut with a razor in the traslik- shaving place-.With the regulation published in 1630 barbers were required to be master at shaving and have a very sharp razor.

In the harare, the place where people have bath, there are open sofas , gobek tasi – the central massage platform­-
In the Turkish baths ( Hamam ) the staff are called tellak, natir and kulhanci. The kulhanci is the one who takes care of the job out of the Turkish bath ( Hamam ). Tellak is the one who helps the customers to have Turkish bath ( Hamam ) when they wish. In the old times , they were reqired to be handsome. The Turkish bath with a handsome tellak used to attract lots of customers. Tellak is a Turkish name that was transferred from Arabic and means the one who rubs. While natir is the staff who helps the woman customers to have Turkish bath, there were also some staff caleed natir in the men’s bath.

A Turkish bath. Engraving by M.J. Starling after T. Allom.
Image credit: © A Turkish bath. Engraving by M.J. Starling after Thomas Allom / Wikimedia Commons.

The Turkish baths were built single ( only for men ) or double (two parts, one for men and the other for women). If the single ones were opened to women in some periods of the day, they were called kusluk hamami . This name was given as they were open to women druing the kusluk time, between 10:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.

Our ancestors who created a water civilization during their time managed to bring water to the city via flowing method from the distance of 30 – 35 km. In those times, to bring water to the city was more difficult than to built a bath. The one who couldn’t find a water source were not able to build charitable buildings like Turkish bath ( Hamam ) or public fountain. Firstly, water engineers called, ABKES used to search for water out of Istanbul, Turkey. When they found a water source this was channeled to the previous ones, and this was called katma which means addition. According to the size of the bath 1,5 –2 mausura amount of water was required. 1,5 mausura of water equals to 14.5 cubic meter of water. This went on until the waqf water was transfered to the municipalities. And today their right, 14,5 cubic meter of water, is decreased from their consumption. The Turkish bath ( Hamam )owners who couldn’t find water resources had a very big wells built next to their baths and the water which was carried with water wheels used to be given to these wells. It is possible to see one of these wells today right behind the Bayezid Hamami.

To heat the water and bath firewood was burned in the place called kulhan. But nowadays brulor is used for this. Since lots of firewood was needed to heat the water and bath ,lots of groves were damaged. For example in the late 19th century the graet grove of Buyuk Camlica was sold to Uskudar great turkish bath ( Hamam ) owner in payment for 250 Turkish Liras. The grove sold belonged to waqf of Ivaz Fakih. However, today there are a few pine trees left in the locality of Sarikaya.

The fire of kulhan is circulated through the pipes under halvet and gobek tasi, and then , to complete the circulation, smoke holes are placed on the walls of the Turkish bath ( Hamam ). There is also another chimney above the kulhan ( the fireplace). In some Turkish baths ( Hamam ) the number of the chmineys may be increased to four. The canals under the Tukish bath (Hamam) are called cehennemlik. There is also a copper boiler above the kulhan – fireplace ­– since copper keeps heat. On the other hand, the roofs of baths are covered with cradle – ‘besik’ – or normal domes. Since these domes are lead-covered, they are called kursunluk.

Unfortunately, there are very few documents about Turkish baths ( Hamam ). Since the Turkish baths, which were built as waqf, were owned by individuals afterwards, we have almost no information about them in our archives. The information here is just a fragment. The studies that tell about Mimar Sinan’s works are only made up of lists. The inventory of Turkish Bath Trades Association dated 1734 which gives the list of the names and workers of the Turkish baths out of Istanbul is nothing except a list.

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