Descriptions of baths
Author: GUN ELCIN
*Lecturer (M.A.) / Ihtiyach Academia, Samsun, Turkey
It was found that there were baths in Samsun between the years of 1793-1914 in the Ottoman registers. But, many of these baths were built in the previous years. Especially, the mosque of Kale Kapısı (Castle Gate), part of Eretna Principality (Mongolian-Chingiz Khan’s Imperial heritage) since 1330, and the baths around it can be regarded as pre-Ottoman architectural works. Actually, bath building and bath culture can be considered as part of the transitional period of the time of the urbanization period from Roman to Ottoman Empire. However, bath culture was enriched with a range of socio-cultural additional traditions that developed in Turco-Islamic states. Men and women used to go to baths in different days during Ottoman reign. Bath culture had also taken an important place in Ottoman social life. In addition to the baths for brides before ceremony, baths were also common in some special festivals. Baths for brides were arranged two days ago before ceremony and the bride hosted her guests, who had their bath and enjoyed themselves with music. Besides, women traditionally had bath gatherings together with their relatives forty days after giving birth. The new-born baby and the mother along with the female relatives attended a ceremony called "Kırklar Hamamı" (Fortieth Bath). The new-born baby was washed in the water mixed by flower, salt and golden coin at the end of the ceremony of Kırklar Hamam.
The luffa, bath bowl, soap, towel, pouch and pestemals used in these baths had an important impact in the continuity of their trade. It is possible to find out the costs of some of these products at Judicial Court Registers. For example, in the registers that belonged to Bazaar and Said Bey Districts dated to 1872-73, old bath suits found purchasers for 50 Ottoman silver coins, and copper bowls for 5 Ottoman silver coins. Old bath suits were also sold for an amount of 25 Ottoman silver coins in Samsun Bazaar. At the deceased womens’ will documents found at Judicial Court Registers, there were bath bowls and bath suits indicating that bath culture was an indispensable element of the social activities of women. A register dated in 1860 from the Ottoman Judicial Court Registration referred to various baths in Samsun such as: Yıldız (Star) Bath (in Hançerli -With Dagger- District), Bekir Efendi Bath (around the castle), Gench Alioğlu Mustafa Ağa Bath (around Yukarı Kale Kapısı = Upper Castle tGate).
The registers, which described the destructions by the big fire, reported that three quarters of Samsun were destroyed in 1869, and among the buildings burned there were eight baths that disappeared. Especially, it was stated that the remainings of the small bath ‘’sagir hamam’’, after a request of the public, were not to be destroyed for building of a road during the reconstruction of the city. Although baths were run by private enterprises, they were considered as public property and under the protection of the state. There were ten baths in the centre of Samsun in 1870, according to the Ottoman Annual Register of that year. Moreover, the existence of a guild for the bath workers and for the bathhouse owners found within the judicial court registers in 1868 is a further proof of their importance. According to the judicial register, kept in 1868 the owner of Chifte Hamam named Memish Agha was reported to be the guild leader for bath houses. Wages were also reported: one of the workers in the bath house named Kara Ahmet received 623 silver coins as annual income. According to the judicial court register dated in 1868 one bath house of Samsun, whose owner was Gench Ali zade Mustafa Agha in the Mekde avenue, was estimated at the price of 25,000 silver Ottoman coins.
The number of baths slightly increased up to eleven in 1903 according to the Ottoman archival sources. The number of baths increased after 1869 because of the growth of the population and the reconstruction of the city after the fire. Samsun as a commercial port city, whose income and living standard increased, witnessed an important increase of population due to the migration not only from rural areas to the city but also to the immigration from the northern and eastern coasts of the Black Sea. Especially in 1864 Caucasian migrations and in 1864-1884 the establishment of Samsun Tobacco Factory attracted large numbers to the city. The number of public baths increased depending to the needs of the growth of the population. Running water did not exist in the house dwellings; instead, water and wood were brought to constructions called "baths" where the washing needs of population were covered at a small expense. It was in this way that the epidemic illnesses which increased in the city centre were tried to be prevented. It was documented that there were ten baths; Müftü Bath in Hançerli in Samsun city centre, Yıldız Bath opposite Hançerli Mosque, Büyük Bath in Mevlevihane, Çifte Bath in Saman Bazaar, Meydan Bath opposite Pazar Mosque, Tahtalı (Yeni) Bath in Pazar District, Mustafa Bey Bath in Kale District, Eski Bath (Kapı Hamam) around Bedestan, Etem Paşa and Millet Bath built by Orthodox Greeks. The baths in Samsun had special days which served immigrants and orphans as in Millet Bath. At each bath, a day or a part of the day was reserved for women or men. Some baths were completely reserved by women for traditions as Kırklar Hamam (Fortieth Bath) or Gelin Hamam (Bride Bath).
It is possible to estimate that each bath house could serve 20-30 persons each time, as some of the buildings, are still in use today. It was necessary to arrange the bath house to be available in two rounds, day and evening in order to compensate the rise of the populations’ need. It should also be noted that the baths fulfilled the needs of port workers along with the sailors and travelers because of their location by the quays of Samsun. One document found in the judicial court records is indicative. When a Russian steamship anchored at the Samsun port, a Russian passenger from that ship went to the bath, called Yıldız (star) Hamamı (bath) after embarking to the land. While he had his bath, he chose to sit in the hottest place of the bath, called Gulhan which caused his death, recorded on 22 April 1872. This event proves that those who were passing by the Samsun port, during the time the steamers unloaded and loaded cargoes, passengers and seamen could take their bath and enjoy the privilege of luxury and relaxation.
 Mehmet Yavuz Erler, Karadenizde Avrupai Bir Kent: Samsun (1865-1875), Karadeniz Tarihi Sempozyumu, Karadeniz Teknik Üniversitesi Yayınları, Vol.I, Trabzon 2007, p. 560; Samsun Castle’s Gate Stone Label, dated in 1333.
 Abdurrahman Okuyan, 1772 No’lu Samsun Şeriye Sicil Defteri, 1872-1873, M.A. Thesis in Ondokuz Mayıs University, Samsun 1998, p. 27, 34-35.
 Osman Keskiner, 1763 no’lu Samsun Şeriye Sicil Defteri, M.A. Thesis in Ondokuz Mayıs University, Samsun 1991, p. 1155.
 Mehmet Yavuz Erler, “Karadenizde Avrupai Bir Kent: Samsun (1865-1875)”, Karadeniz Tarihi Sempozyumu, Karadeniz Teknik Üniversitesi Yayınları, Vol.I, Trabzon 2007, p. 563.
 Trabzon Vilayet Salnamesi (Trabzon Annual Registers), 1870.
 Mehmet Coşkun, Samsun Şeriye Sicili, H. 1285-1286, M.A. thesis in Ondokuz Mayıs University, Samsun 1991, p.70.
 Mehmet Coşkun, Samsun Şeriye Sicili, H. 1285-1286, M.A. thesis in Ondokuz Mayıs University, Samsun 1991, p.142.
 Mehmet Yavuz Erler, “Karadenizde Avrupai Bir Kent: Samsun (1865-1875)”, Karadeniz Tarihi Sempozyumu, Karadeniz Teknik Üniversitesi Yayınları, Vol.I, Trabzon 2007, p. 541-569.
 Baki Sarısakal, Samsun Eğlence Tarihi, Samsun Büyükşehir Belediyesi Yayınları, İstanbul 2007, p.111-114.
 Aks-ı Seda (Newspaper), Dated : 2 Haziran 1328, p. 526.
 Abdurrahman Okuyan, 1772 no’lu Samsun Sheriyya Sicili, M.A. Thesis in Ondokuz Mayıs University, Samsun 1998, p.52. (number:29, 22 April 1872)