The hamam combines the functionality and the structural elements of its predecessors in Anatolia, the Roman thermae and baths, with the Central Asian Turkic tradition of steam bathing, ritual cleansing and respect of water. It is also known that Arabs built versions of the Greek-Roman baths that they encountered following their conquest of Alexandria in 641. From the 10th century, Turkish kingdoms began to proliferate in Anatolia in lands conquered from the Byzantine Greeks, leading eventually to the complete conquest of the remnants of the old empire in the 15th century. During those centuries of war, peace, alliance, trade, and competition, the two cultures – Hellenized Roman and Anatolian Turkish – had tremendous influence on each other. Moving beyond the re-use of the Greek baths (for example Byzantine Bath (Thessaloniki)) in their new lands, new bath were constructed as annex buildings of mosques, the complexes of which were community center as well as houses of worship.
The Ottomans in particular became prolific patrons of baths, building a number of ambitious structures, particular in Constantinople after it became their capital in 1453. The monumental baths designed by Renaissance Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan (1489–1588), such as the stand alone 1584 “Çemberlitaş Hamamı”, the bath in the complex of the 1558 Süleymaniye Mosque (both in Constantinople) and the bath of the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne were particularly influential.
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