Recently we visited the historic Roman Baths in the aptly named Bath. The city of Bath itself has the honour of being a UNESCO world heritage site with many fine architectural and cultural sites but for now we are focussing on the well preserved Roman Bath complex.
What Have The Romans Ever Done For Us?
All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
The hot springs (about 46°C 115°F) which bubble up to the surface at Bath were first dedicated to the goddess Sulis by the Celts and then adopted by the Romans and dedicated to their goddess Minerva around AD60. The Romans kept the original Celtic name calling the site ‘Aquae Sulis‘
Over 12,000 Roman coins have been found in the Sacred Spring as well as many other precious objects used as offerings to the goddess. Also many curses which were inscribed on thin sheets of lead and pewter have been found.
Here’s one such curse that was found from someone who seemed overly attached to their gloves! “Docimedis has lost two gloves and asks that the thief responsible should lose their minds and eyes in the goddess’ temple.”
The audio guide takes you through an interactive museum which shows you the people and their lives in Aquae Sulis. There are many well-preserved treasures and relics which have been found in and around the site.
The route takes you down to the original Roman level and the Temple Courtyard where Romans prayed to their goddess Sulis Minerva.
There are also Roman characters wandering around the baths which are based on real people who originally lived and worked in Aquas Sulis.
The remains of Temple Pediment with it’s Gorgon’s head which originally sat over the courtyard has been pieced together with an animation showing how it would have appeared 2000 years ago.
The public baths were a part of day to day life for Romans, they were used not only for hygiene but for relaxing and socialising. The Great Bath is the large lead lined central pool which is 1.6m deep. It was originally covered by an impressive 40m high barrel-vaulted hall.
The baths were used for over 400 years with extra heated rooms being added until it reached its maximum size in the fourth century. The baths fell into disrepair and silted up after the Romans left Britain and ‘washing’ was not a popular Anglo-Saxon pastime.
Visiting The Baths
The baths are open every day except Christmas Day and Boxing Day and open late during the summer.
You can find the up to date opening times here.
The entry includes the audio guide which is available in 12 languages although not Latin, so bad luck for any revisiting Romans. The English version of the guide has a good narration by Bill Bryson who adds his unique style and wit to the tour.
If you are visiting the Bath then a trip to the Roman Baths is not to be missed, allow at least a couple of hours to have a really good look around.