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History of Swimming Pools

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

Since the beginning of time, life has needed water. Without it, no being can survive for long, which is why nearly all major civilizations built themselves near bodies of water, using it to grow crops and hydrate a society. Even the oldest myths, lore and religions have key references to water and view it as life-sustaining and integral to society.

Swimming pools branch from these same ancient civilizations, with a rich and interesting history. In this guide, we’ll look at when the first swimming pool was invented, who invented it and how pools have evolved over time.

Who Invented the Swimming Pool?

While the details of the swimming pool's ancient origins remain foggy, one thing that historians generally agree upon is who invented the swimming pool. Gaius Maecenas, a wealthy Roman lord and patron of the arts, built what is considered to be the first heated swimming pool in the first century B.C.

Early Swimming Pools

Ancient Romans would eventually adapt Maecenas’ idea and build artificial swimming pools specifically designed for athletic games and military exercises. Swimming pools would ebb and flow in popularity for the next several hundred years, mainly used for public bathing. But it wasn’t until the late-1800s that the modern swimming pools that we think of today came into existence.

The modern Olympic games began in 1896 and included several swimming activities, which re-introduced the world to swimming pools. Within the next few years, the popularity of swimming pools would spread with various clubs, hotels and even ocean liners installing in-ground pools to accommodate guests.

Evolution of Swimming Pools

Throughout history, as time progressed, so did swimming pools. Newer technologies allowed for swimming pools to be built more efficiently and last longer. Let’s take a look at how swimming pools evolved over time.

800 B.C. to 600 B.C.

Ancient Romans and Greeks were among the first communities to have documented recreational swimming pools. As their economies continued to grow over time, so did their desire to have leisurely activities outside of their homes. These early pools were in open-air gymnasiums called “palaestrae.”

A.D. 75

By A.D. 50, the Romans had conquered Britannia and brought their practice of leisurely and ritual bathing along with them. In A.D. 75, the Romans built a large religious spa called the Aquae Sulis in the modern-day city of Bath, England. This pool was designed for worship, bathing and healing.

19th Century

Throughout the 1800s, swimming pools received a resurgence in popularity. In 1828, the first public indoor swimming pool, St. George’s Baths, opened in England. By 1837, swimming had become an extremely popular recreational sport, peaking with Captain Matthew Webb becoming the first documented human to swim the English Channel. His accomplishment increased the popularity of swimming in general and swimming pools.

20th Century

The popularity of swimming pools continued to grow, with more swimming sports such as diving, freestyle events and women’s swimming events added to the Olympics in the early 1900s.

By the 1950s, post-WWII America embraced community swimming pools as a leisurely activity. Swimming pool fashion, particularly bikinis, catapulted the nation to a new level of swim culture that would lead us to where we are today — the modern in-ground swimming pool available for individual homes.

Unique Uses for Inground Pools

One of the most exciting aspects of an inground swimming pool is the number of applications for it. An inground pool doesn’t have just one use. Check out some of the most popular uses of inground pools!


Since the mid-to-late 1800s, inground swimming pools have been a staple of athletic competition. From traditional competitions such as races and relays to organized sports such as water polo, swimming pools provide a venue for sport and entertainment. In 2020, the Olympic Games included 18 swimming events, as well as other water sports such as water polo, diving and synchronized swimming.

At-Home Leisure

Perhaps the most popular use of a swimming pool is recreational at-home leisure. From relaxing and tanning poolside to personal exercise, having a personal in-ground swimming pool has several recreational benefits that can help to improve your lifestyle and physical and mental health. Recreational at-home swimming pools continue to remain popular among homeowners. As of 2010, around 4.1% of the U.S. had an inground swimming pool — a number that continues to increase over time.

Physical Therapy

Exercises done in an in-ground swimming pool are often used for aquatic physical therapy. These exercises can include water walking, forward lunges, aquatic leg balances, pool planks, arm raises and even a deep water bicycle. Physical therapists agree that aquatic exercises can be beneficial for physical therapy because they provide the necessary resistance to help make muscles stronger without the weight and impact of standard on-land exercises.

Water Sports

Within the last century, water sports have continued to gain prevalence. Popular water sports include water polo, water volleyball, pool snorkeling, synchronized swimming, diving and aquaerobics. These water sports are an excellent form of exercise, and they are competitive and fun for both participants and spectators!

Modern Swimming Pools

As the purpose of swimming pools has evolved over time, so has the physical aspects of a pool. Modern swimming pools often have luxurious features such as waterfalls, fire features, infinity edges and pool bars. One of the most exciting aspects of the modern swimming pool is that you can bring virtually any custom idea to life with the right team designing and building your inground pool. With thousands of custom and luxurious options available with pools, your modern swimming pool experience will be like no other!

Build and Maintain Your Pool With Quantus Pools

What began as a community bathing center has evolved into a luxurious and resort-like recreational personal in-ground swimming pool. Are you interested in installing a modern in-ground swimming pool on your property? Quantus Pools provides quality custom in-ground pool design, maintenance and renovation services throughout Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan and Indiana. Contact the swimming pool experts at Quantus Pools to begin your designing your custom swimming pool!


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