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Public baths are known to have existed in early Egyptian palaces and bathing occupied an important place in the life of the Greeks, indicated by the remains of bathing rooms in the palace of Knossos that date from 1700 BC. However, it was the Romans that developed bathing to high degree of sophistication. At first, the Roman baths were designed on a small scale as they were used simply for cleaning after physical training exercises. The balnea developed as private baths or neighbourhood baths. Their popularity encouraged the introduction of public baths, thermae, on a massive scale. These included the Baths of Titus (81 AD), Baths of Domitian (95 AD), Trajan's Baths (100 AD), the Baths of Caracalla (217 AD), and the Thermae of Diocletian. Excavations at Olympia show that from originally modest, functional buildings, with a cold pool, hot slipper baths, and a steam bath, the thermae developed into pleasure palaces. Beginning in the Hellenistic era, their role expanded from one of facilitating cleanliness to one of making life as pleasant as possible. The opulence of the Roman bath embodies the essence of a culture that thrived on pleasure and leisure. Some of the thermae were large enough to accommodate thousands of bathers, the Diocletian bath had a capacity for 6000 bathers. Roman baths were also built wherever the Romans made conquests, and the imperial bathing establishment was repeated in its essential form throughout the Roman Empire. Bathhouses were also provided for the army as far north as The Antonine Wall.
Communal bathing in public facilities was, therefore, an important and essential part of Roman life, and formed part of the daily routine for all classes in Rome. Cicero writes "the gong that announced the opening of the public baths each day was a sweeter sound, than the voices of the philosophers in their school". The thermae were all-encompassing establishments acting as social, recreational, and cultural centers. Much of daily Roman life surrounded the thermae and a good proportion of a citizen's day would be spent there.
The general scheme consisted of a large open garden surrounded by subsidiary rooms and a block of bath chambers either in the centre of the garden, as in the Baths of Caracalla, or at its rear, as in the Baths of Titus. The main block contained three large bath chambers (the frigidarium, calidarium and tepidarium), smaller bathrooms, and courts. In addition to bathing facilities they would include sports centres, swimming pools, parks, libraries, lecture halls, small theatres, large halls for parties, restaurants and sleeping quarters.
Roman engineers devised an ingenious system of heating the baths, the hypocaust by which the floor was raised off the ground by pillars and spaces were left inside the walls so that hot air from the furnace could circulate through these open areas. Rooms requiring the most heat were placed closest to the furnace, whose heat could be increased by adding more wood. Large numbers of people were, therefore, offered an enclosed place that was always warm. At a time when, no matter how cold it became, people had no source of heat at home other than braziers and wore overcoats in the house as well as in the street, the baths were a place to keep warm. Providing social and recreational activities was a basic responsibility for Roman rulers and the larger baths were owned by the state. They were frequently the pet projects of the Roman emperors, and, to ensure their popularity, and the emperor's notoriety, entrance fees were kept to the very minimum.
The Roman workday began at sunrise, with work being complete around noon, which was the time when the baths were generally visited. Republican bathhouses often had separate bathing facilities for women and men, but by the empire the custom was to open the bathhouses to women during the early part of the day and reserve it for men from 2:00 pm until closing time (usually sundown). As a rule, men and women bathed separately. Mixed bathing is first recorded in the 1st century AD, and was condemned by respectable citizens and prohibited by the emperors Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius. Women who were concerned about their respectability did not frequent the baths when the men were there, and the baths were an excellent place for prostitutes to ply their trade.
The Roman bathing ritual had a standardized pattern and generally regular routine, which the thermae were designed to accommodate. The exception was when bathers were taking the baths as part of a medical treatment, their physician would then prescribe which rooms to visit. The bathers first entered the apodyterium (dressing room) to change from their outdoor clothes, then proceeded to the elaeothesium or unctuarium to be anointed with oil. It was then normal to have a strenuous workout in the large courtyard area (palaestra) at the centre of the thermae, where various sports and activities were available. Exercises would include weight lifting, running, and ball games. After this the visitor proceeded to the series of main bathing rooms that varied dramatically in temperature. The calidarium (hot room), the sudatorium, or laconicum (steam room), where bathers had their bodies scraped of its accumulation of oil and perspiration with a curved metal implement called a strigil, the tepidarium (warm room), the largest and most luxurious in the thermae, and the frigidarium (cold room), where there was frequently a swimming pool. The bathing process was completed after the body was again anointed with oil.
After their baths, patrons could stroll in the promenades and gardens, visit the library or museum, watch performances of jugglers or acrobats, listen to a readings by poets, philosophers and politicians, or buy a snack from the many food vendors. They would meet friends and conduct business. Life at the baths was like life at the beach in summertime, the greatest pleasures were to mix with the crowd, to meet people, to listen to conversations, to tell stories, and to show off.
The buildings were among the most splendid and expensive of the imperial works, and made the splendor of a royal residence accessible to all. Lounges with covered colonnades for relaxation and socializing were provided. Writers frequently comment on the beauty and luxury of the bathhouses, with their, rich furnishings, high vaulted ceilings, brightly colored mosaics, paintings, marble panels, and silver faucets and fittings. Christians and philosophers denied themselves the array of pleasures available at the thermae, or the "Cathedrals of Flesh," as they were known by Christians.
The word "spa" is rooted in the Latin language and means "salus per aquam". For those of you who are not very polished on your Latin, that means "health from water". Incidentally, "Spa" is also the name of a small village nearby Liege in Belgium where hot mineral springs were discovered by ancient Romans and used by soldiers to treat aching muscles and wounds from battle. Romans were not the first or only ancient civilization to use social bathing, they were just the civilization the perfected it. Social bathing was used by numerous civilizations, such as the Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Minoans, and Greeks.
However, even before this mineral spring was discovered, Roman citizens bathed daily in the now famous Roman baths. It is unclear when the Romans used the first public bath, but during the reign of Caesar Augustus from 27 BC to 14 AD, there were approximately 170 baths throughout Rome. While many of these were public baths, they were primarily built as garrisons and used by the soldiers of Rome. While the Roman soldiers had used baths for decades as a way of easing the wounds of battle, by 43 AD, the Roman public began to take on a different view of baths and bathing. At this time, citizens of Rome began to view baths as a way of providing rest, relaxation, and solace to all people, not just those weary of war. It was after this time that public interest in baths began to peak. In 70 AD, the Romans built a spa and dedicated it, as a shrine consisting of a reservoir around the hot springs at Bath, in what is now England, a complex series of baths, and a temple, to the honor of the goddess Sulis Minerva. As the Roman Empire grew, so did the number of public baths. By the year 300 AD, there were over 900 baths throughout the empire. The oldest Roman spa still in existence today is located in Merano, Italy, providing evidence of the idea that the Romans used natural springs in an organized manner to provide treatments.
Baths were an important part of the daily life of both Roman men and women of all social classes and the ancient Romans managed to transform it into an art. While members of the Roman upper class frequently built private baths in their home or villa, they still favored the public bathhouses that were present throughout the Roman Empire. These large public baths were known as thermae and frequently spanned several city blocks. There was a fee for using the thermae, but it was minimal and could be afforded by most free Romans. However, the fee for women to use the public baths was twice as much as the fee for men.
Roman men and women observed separate bathing times. While there were some baths that allowed mixed bathing, this practice was generally considered in poor taste and no self-respecting Roman woman would be caught bathing in the presence of men. Mixed baths were seen as a venue for prostitutes to promote their trade. Baths were typically open to women from daybreak until just after noon and for men from about 2:00 in the afternoon until sunset. Baths were rarely used in the evenings. A visit to the bath would traditionally last several hours and include exercise, bathing, and socializing. Roman baths were very social places and, in addition to a gymnasium area for exercising, the largest baths often included gardens, a library or reading room, restaurant, bar, marketplace, even museums or theatres that featured jugglers, acrobats, and recitals. Bathers moved from room to room at a leisurely pace, enjoying the company of fellow Romans and all the amenities the baths offered.
Roman baths were adorned with lavish decorations. The structures themselves were open and filled with natural light, complimented by high, vaulted ceilings. Walls were covered with mirrors and the pools were lined with the finest marble of the day. In addition, mosaics of intricate patterns were found throughout the bath. The first room entered by visitors to the baths was the dressing room or apodyterium, the predecessor of our modern day locker room. This room was filled with shelves and cabinets for visitors to store their personal belongings. The more well to do bathers would often bring a servant or two to guard their belongings from thieves that frequented the baths to prey on unprotected valuables. For those bathers who did not have servants, an attendant could be paid a small fee to watch over belongings. It is not entirely clear as to what Romans wore when they were bathing, but it is not likely that they bathed in the nude. Rather, it is thought that they wore a type of light dressing gown and sandals to protect their feet from the heated floors of the other bathing rooms.
Upon exiting the apodyterium, Roman men had their bodies oiled by slaves of the bath and began their exercise regimen. This most often consisted of activities such as weight lifting, wrestling, various types of ball games, or running. The gymnasium or exercise area was known as the palaestra. Roman men were more likely to utilize these facilities than women, who used baths primarily for bathing and socializing.
After exercising, bathers entered the tepidarium, a room where they would prepare for their bath. The first step was to remove the oil from their body. Oil was used as a substitute for soap, which was reserved for only the very wealthy in ancient Rome, then scraped off with an implement known as a strigil, removing dirt and grime with it. Upon completing this step, bathers were ready to enter the caladarium. This room was very hot and filled with steam, created by sunken pools of hot water. Some baths also included a room that was very hot and dry, very much like our modern day saunas, called a laconicum. Visits to the hot rooms were followed by a visit to the frigidarium. As the name implies, this room was cold and served to close pores that were open from sweating in the hot rooms. This room also frequently contained either a small pool of cold water for washing away sweat or a large pool of cold water for swimming. These rooms also provided patrons with the opportunity to receive massages with perfumed oils.
Romans used a system of furnaces called a hypocaust for heating baths. The floor of the bath was raised off the ground by numerous pillars. This system was under the floor of the baths and utilized the hot air from the furnace, or praefunium, which consisted of several fires in the basement of the bath, tended by slaves. This hot air flowed through a system of wall ducts and was very efficient at heating both rooms and water. In fact, bathers had to wear sandals in order to prevent their feet from being burned. Those rooms that required the most heat, such as the caldarium or laconium, were built closer, while rooms requiring little heat, such as the frigidarium, were built the furthest from the furnace.
With the demise of the Roman Empire, so to came the demise of the Roman bath. While they were not entirely phased out of existence, those existing in the furthest outliers of the empire frequently fell to ruin. This did not mark the end of the influence of the Roman bath. The natural hot springs in Bath, England have been recognized for their therapeutic properties since their use by the Romans. This trend carried itself forth throughout history and made Bath one of the most notable ancient spa cites. At Bath, the springs generate more than one million gallons of mineral water at 120 F each day. This mineral water contains numerous elements such as magnesium, potassium, sulfur, and calcium. Even today, visitors can marvel at the ingenuity of ancient baths by viewing ruins of steam rooms and the furnace. In the 11th century, the King’s Bath was built over the ruins of the temple of Sulis Minerva at Bath. This was originally built as part of an infirmary, but by the 12th century, the magnificent healing powers of the hot springs prompted the founding of Saint John’s Hospital at the site. Henry of Huntington, one of those involved in the founding of the hospital said, "Where the hot springs…supply the warm baths which stand in the middle of the place, most delightful to see and beneficial to health…infirm people resort to it from all parts of England, for the purpose of washing themselves in these salubrious waters; and persons of health also assemble there, to see the curious bubbling up of the warm springs, and to use the baths".
By the Elizabethan Era, the popularity of the hot springs at Bath had increased greatly and expansions were made upon already existing baths. At this time, the use of spas was becoming more widely accepted throughout Europe and by the 16th century, the Kings Bath, Cross Bath, and Hot Bath drew many visitors who were searching for cures to various illnesses and ailments. These baths were the driving force of the economy of the city of Bath and in 1574, Queen Elizabeth I visited Bath, prompting the aristocracy of England to take notice of the benefits of Bath’s natural springs. This visit led to the creation of the Queen’s Bath, built beside the King’s Bath, in 1576. In the years following, other royals, such as Charles II, James II, and Queen Anne all frequented Bath, bringing with them the English aristocracy. By the turn of the 17th century, the popularity of Bath had increased so greatly, that the city was rebuilt to accommodate its newfound economic development and success.
This growth and development continued into the 18th century. At this time, both the Hot Bath and Cross Bath were rebuilt and enlarged. In 1738, the Royal Mineral Hospital was constructed as the healing properties of Baths hot springs gained notoriety. It is interesting to note that, while Romans took care to protect their modesty, the English had no qualms about bathing in the nude with members of the opposite sex. John Wood the Elder, one of the men responsible for the creation of the Royal Mineral Hospital, wrote, "The Baths were like so many Bear Gardens, and modesty was entirely shut out of them, people of both sexes bathing by day and night naked".
As the years passed, the development of baths and spas spread throughout and they became increasingly elaborate. Frequently, spas were built in secluded mountain towns and provided visitors with majestic mountain vistas. This practice was especially popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. At this time, it also became a practice for spas to be staffed by medical professionals who prescribed and carefully monitored the treatments provided to each visitor, perhaps a precursor to our modern-day medi-spas. The treatments of this time were not sophisticated by modern standards and consisted primarily of either soaking or drinking. These spas were tremendously successful and they grew rapidly, eventually expanding to add restaurants, casinos, and accommodations for entertainment, such as symphonies or racetracks. This opulence was enticing to European royals, who held such events as state dinners and royal weddings in these settings. In an effort to maintain their upper-class clientele, spas worked diligently to maintain treatments that were innovative. This remains the practice among spas throughout Europe, even today.
Across the ocean, in the still undiscovered "New World", native Indians were enjoying the benefits of hot spring therapy as well. Native Americans bathed in mineral springs to enhance their physical and spiritual health. These baths played an important role in the social structure of Native American communities. It was the legends of these healing springs that drew Spanish conquistadors, such as Ponce de Leon, to the New World. In present-day New York State, the Mohawk Indians used hot springs for their healing properties. The oldest spring known to have been used by the Mohawks is the Saratoga Hot Springs, meaning "the place of the medicine waters of the great spirit" in the native dialect. By the 18th century, America was being settled and the colonists began to take notice of the healing springs of Saratoga. In 1790, the Saratoga Hot Springs began offering both spa treatments and accommodations to visitors. While it was one of the first commercial spas in the New World, it was not entirely unique. As colonists discovered new hot springs, they would build log cabins and wooden tubs for bathing near them. The waters were analyzed for their chemical and physical properties by those seeking to satisfy their scientific curiosities. From these analyses, many important theories about hydrotherapy were developed, many of which are still widely recognized today.
As America expanded westward, new mineral springs were discovered. These discoveries prompted the development of an elaborate new classification system for developing spas, based on the study of geography, geology, mineralogy, and climatology. As the therapeutic effects of mineral waters became more widely accepted across the country, medical practitioners began to adopt hydrotherapies and climatotherapies as innovative ways of treating their patients. In urban areas, free public baths were developed to improve the hygiene of underprivileged citizens.
By European standards, American spas are still in their infancy and the differences between American and European spas are manifold. Traditionally, Europeans have viewed spas as a venue for the treatment of present illnesses and the prevention of future ailments. In addition, Europeans also placed special emphasis on the importance of spas in helping visitors relax by combating the stresses of everyday life. In contrast, traditional American spas have maintained their focus on wellness, attracting individuals who are already healthy with programs in nutrition, exercise, and beauty. More recently, American spas have begun to adopt numerous new programs in areas such as meditation and spiritual communication. This is, of course, excepting specialty spas, such as medi-spas, who maintain their focus on providing alternative treatments to numerous illnesses and ailments.
As mankind has progressed, so have the spa treatments that have been used since ancient times to remedy a variety of ailments. While the origins of spas are rooted in the healing waters of natural hot springs, the focus of spas around the world, including in the United States, has shifted. Few spa patrons are drawn to spas for their healing waters. In fact, the history of spas is something that has been nearly forgotten. Advances in technology and medicine have developed new treatments that have all but replaced treatments that are more traditional. As medicine progressed, some of the faith in healing waters diminished because man-made therapies were thought to provide more powerful, immediate results. This declining interest led to decreased financial support from the federal government. Consequently, there was a period in American history when the uses of hydrotherapy declined dramatically.
The history of spas is quite rich and there is much to be learned from it. While advances in modern medicine have provided benefits beyond what even their developers likely imagined, it is quite possible that there is still much to be learned from the history of ancient healing waters.
- Herculaneum : the bathhouse with palaestra
- Merano : the oldest Roman spa
- Ostia Antica : houses and places decorated with mosaic floors
- Pompei : amphitheatre with large palaestra, the Stabian Baths with small palaestra, the Forum Baths, the Central Baths
- Rome : Baths of Agrippa, Baths of Caracalla, Baths of Diocletian, Baths of Titus, Baths of Trajan
- Sicily : the Villa Romana del Casale of Piazza Armerina
OTHER EUROPEAN COUNTRIES
- Belgium : the natural mineral springs of the town of Spa (nearby Liege) and surrounding areas
- England : the bathhouse of Bath (Avon), Welwyn (Hertfordshire) and Wroxeter (Shropshire, nearby Wales)
- France : the amphitheatre and the bathhouse of Arles
- Germany : Trier with the Barbara Baths and the Imperial Baths (Kaiserthermen)
With Mount Vesuvius brooding on the horizon, any visit to the Bay of Naples area should include a visit to Herculaneum. It is unjustly less famous than its bigger brother Pompei as the state of preservation of the buildings are generally much superior It was lost to sight during the same series of eruptions that destroyed Pompei but was possibly destroyed by a pyroclastic flow (*) as much of the timber has survived in a charred condition giving a much better idea of what a Roman town may have looked like.
(*) a pyroclastic flow is described by the US Geological Survey as : "Ground-hugging avalanche of hot ash, pumice, rock fragments, and volcanic gas that rushes down the side of a volcano as fast as 100 km/hour or more. The temperature within a pyroclastic flow may be greater than 500° C, sufficient to burn and carbonize wood. Once deposited, the ash, pumice, and rock fragments may deform (flatten) and weld together because of the intense heat and the weight of the overlying material".
Herculaneum was originally discovered when a well was being dug in the early 18th century at a depth of 50-60 feet below the modern surface. Initially a series of shafts and tunnels were dug to strip the site of any saleable valuables. However, between 1749 to 1765, Herculaneum was explored on a more scientific basis for the Bourbon Kings of Naples and the Two Sicilies, initially under the supervision of Rocco Gioacchino Alcubierre and then his assistant Carlo Weber. A basic plan of the town was mapped out and much of the portable remains removed but eventually these tunnels collapsed and were closed down. The modern towns of Resina and Portici grew up over the site and knowledge of where the entrances to the tunnels were was lost to the scientific community.
In the 20th Century, archaeological excavations re-commenced on a more modern and scientific basis fully uncovering a small section of the town but it was found that the earlier tunneling had damaged the structure of much of the surviving buildings. The site is also suffering from exposure to the elements and the periodic earth tremors, so there is a constant battle to try and preserve the remains. Recent archaeological work at the site has rediscovered potentially one of the greatest treasure houses of contemporary Roman knowledge. The Villa of the Papyri was initially thought to contain unreadable charred scrolls, fused into solid lumps when it was originally excavated in the 18th century. It was found that using various techniques some of the scrolls could be eased open and at least part of their contents read. A few were opened using an early mechanized method that allowed them to be slowly unrolled but it could take 4 years to do this and the scrolls were still extremely difficult to read when they were opened. Recent research using carefully measured chemical solutions is now enabling more of the 1800 to 2000 excavated scrolls to be opened into separate sheets but it is still a long process. Electronic equipment has recently been used enabling scholars to enhance the remaining script and more fully interpret some of the ancient texts contained on the scrolls. The scrolls opened and read to date appear to have mainly been various philosophical texts written in Greek rather than Latin but it is possible that more scrolls could be excavated in the future which will cover other aspects of Roman life. It has been speculated that there may be other Papyri with Latin texts in a lower unexplored section of the Villa. To my mind the fact that the villa was owned by a relative of Julius Caesar gives rise to several tantalizing possibilities. It is entirely plausible that a more complete copy of Caesars "Civil War", which is known to have missing or corrupted sections, or any number of texts that are known about from surviving fragments or other texts but have since been lost to history are just waiting to be rediscovered.
Herculaneum is thought to be the "town of Hercules". People say that Hercules created the town while coming back from Spain. Herculaneum is quite small, around 55 acres. The population is around 4.000 to 5.000 people. The town of Hercules is on the shore of the Bay of Naples, and is just a few miles away from the volcano, Mount Vesuvius. Thousands of years ago, this volcano erupted and covered Herculaneum with many layers of ash fall which preserved it through the centuries.
It was on 24 August 79 AD, when without warning Mount Vesuvius reached its bursting point. With a few thunderous cracking sounds, Mount Vesuvius's top blew off, sending super-hot ash, pumice, rocks, and gases straight up into the air, covering the city. For the next eighteen hours the volcano continued to erupt. On that day, the wind had been blowing south-east, toward Pompei. Throughout the afternoon and evening of August 24, Pompei continued to be covered with hot-ash, stone, and pumice. In Pompei the volcano had already killed 2.000 people, and had injured many others. During the first twelve hours, Herculaneum only recievd a light dusting of ash fall. Many residents thought the world was coming to an end and quickly fled to Rome and Naples for shelter. The town of Hercules was in great danger, some people did stay, but they did not stand a chance. It was around one o' clock in the morning when the blast cloud of Mount Vesuvius collapsed under its own weight. An avalanche of pyroclastic flows hurtled down Vesuvius, at speeds of up to 100 miles an hour. These hot gases and ash (around 750-degrees Fahrenheit) reached Herculaneum in just four minutes. There was no time at all to run. The volcanic storm killed every living thing in its path. By the end of the eruption, Herculaneum had been buried in more than 65 feet of pyroclastic flow. The shore line had been pushed back more than 1.500 feet farther out to sea. All of the volcanic matter hardened into a stone called "tufa". The news of the eruption had been sent to Rome. At once the Senate declared the whole region a "disaster area".
Before the volcano erupted, the town of Hercules had some unique features. For example the layout of Herculaneum is made of orderly rectangular blocks (insulate). This design is similar to that of Naples, a city founded by the Greeks. Therefore, one could argue that the town of Herclues could have be founded by the Greeks. The town consisted of houses and shops packed tightly together Because there were no backyards in Herculaneum, columns and walls created courtyards and gardens.
Romans, the great organizers that they were, considered a town without a forum not a town at all. The forum is a place for people to meet people and talk about politics and business... and to gossip. So far, in Herculaneum excavators have not been able to uncover the forum, but Herculaneum has such impressive buildings it is believed that it should have an impressive forum too.
Herculaneum did have an extremely nice "Main Street". It was a pedestrians' paradise because carts, wagons, and chariots were prevented from entering. The road is paved with Vesuvian stones. The sidewalk was protected from the sun by overhanging roofs, which were supported by wooden beams. On one side of the streets there were even covered walkways with columns to protect shoppers from bad weather. "Main Street" began with a small public square in the front of the sports arena. There is public fountain there, featuring a carved statue of Hercules. Further down the road is a fountain of Venus. Even further there was a Shrine Of Augustus. Here officials would go to worship the defined emperors. Their religion served a definite political purpose.
The streets in Herculaneum rarely had ruts worn by wheels of heavy carts. There were no stepping stones so that pedestrians' feet were kept dry, like in Pompei. The town of Herculaneum had an excellent drainage system. An underground system carried rainwater and wastewater out to sea. Herculaneum was a cleaner and quieter town than Pompei.
The town of Hercules water supply flowed from the mountains through aqueducts to the town. There was a water tower to ensure the water pressure and to check the filtration system to make certain that water was purified so that it was safe to drink. Some homes had private wells and cisterns (storage tanks) that were connected to to the public water-supply system.
Many homes did not have their own bathrooms so they used public latrines. The latrines were probably very similar to the Romans' public facilities. The Roman latrines had rows of marble seats that were flushed with a constant flow of water. The Roman weren't concerned with privacy, so separate stalls were not necessary. Some houses did have private latrines, they were either received a constant flow of water or could be flushed with a bucket of water.
Houses were very important in both Pomei and Herculaneum. They were built to last, not for generations but for centuries. The houses were built so that a single family, their dependents and heirs could all live together. Most Italic houses followed a regular form. On the outside, it was simple with just a few windows. There was a short entranceway (the fauces) which led to the main room, the atrium. The roof was sloped inward on all four sides with an opening in the center (the compluvium). There was a pool below the compluvium to catch all rainwater. There was a room called tablinum that was used as a bedroom or a reception room. The kitchen, the dining room (the triclinium), and small, window-less bedrooms were all located around the atrium. In Herculaneum, the basic plan was changed and embellished to create a variety of customized houses. The new atrium was like a large per style garden at the back with rows of columns and additional rooms, bedrooms, sitting rooms, even dining rooms.
In the town of Hercules sports were a very big event. You can tell, because of how big the sports arena (the Palaestra) and gymnasium are. The Palaestra takes up more than a modern city block. The arena was surrounded by three columned walkways. On the north side a portico and a loggia provided a comfortable place for officials and special guests to watch the competition. Next to this was an elegant meeting hall that seated hundreds. The main hall of the Palaestra was where the athletes would receive their awards, an olive-wreath crown. In this hall stood a statue of Hercules. The wreath was cut from a wild olive tree, the same tree that gave Hercules his clubs. The naked athletes would march in and stand before the statue. Their march was accompanied by the music of trumpets and the cheers of spectators. Before the game all of the athletes sought the blessing of Hercules. The sports events were all paid by the wealthy towns people, usually the patricians. There was a feast after the competition, that was paid for by wealthy freedmen. The playing field was very large itself. It was big enough to have foot races, wrestling, boxing, discus hurling, javelin toss, jumping, a combination of wrestling and boxing, and a series of five contestants for all-around athletes, the pentathlon. Before competing, the athletes had to swear that they had been in training for ten months.
The theater in Herculaneum was very big part of entertainment. Many people would go to the theater and would watch comedies, tragedies, and most of all pantomimes. Pantomimes had little or no dialogue in them. Actors used gestures and body language to play there roles. Singing and dancing also helped to play a role. Initially, only men could perform in plays. But, eventually that changed and women could perform in plays, especially pantomimes. Masks were worn by all performers, both in tragic and in comic presentations. Later, that also changed, and the performers could face the audience. Many famous actors and mimes were idolized. They commanded much money and had fashionable friends, sometimes even emperors and empresses. The laws discriminated against actors, and they were set apart from the rest of the population. On the day of the performance the theater was decorated with many expensive things. They would hang yellow and blue awnings up to protect the audience from the sun. The theater would seat around 2.500 people. This theater was different from the ones in Greece and Pompei, it was not built into a hillside but it stood independently, like the theaters in Rome and Naples. Very important officials sat in boxes above entrances or at either end of the stage. All seats were free, and only slaves were barred.
Another important building was the public bath. The baths were made to look as beautiful as possible with wall paintings, mosaics, statues, and architectural details. Going to the baths was like a social event, almost like going to a party. The baths were a place of cleanliness, fitness, and fun. Almost everyone went to the baths at least once a day. All baths usually had a gymnasium and courts to play ball on. Most people started off at the baths by having a really good workout. Then their slaves would apply a mixture of olive oil and finely ground pumice to a patrons' body. The slave would then scrape off all the sweat, dirt and oil with a strigil. Next came the baths, first they would go to the tepidarium, the warm room, then the caldarium a hot, steamed-filled room. After these two rooms, bathers then went to the cold room, the frigidarium. There they took a quick plunge into the pool. Some had the slaves give them another rubdown. Then they would dress and relax.
So far, from what we know, Herculaneum was very beautiful and unique. In a way Herculaneum is still a mystery to us.
The beautifully preserved ruins of Ostia lie twenty miles from Rome, in the meadows between the Tiber River and the Tyrrhenian Sea. It was founded, probably in the 4th century BC, as a military colony to guard the river mouth against seaborne invasions. Later, during the centuries when virtually all imports reached the Capital via the Tiber, Ostia gained prominence as the domestic landing for cargo boats. By the 2nd century AD, it had become a flourishing commercial center inhabited by upwards of 100.000 people, whose apartment buildings, taverns, and grocery shops are still intact.
Although Ostia now sprawls over 10.000 acres, around a main street that runs for more than a mile, it is still easy to imagine the local shepherds who for centuries sheltered their animals amongst its ruins, for they are an integral part of the tranquil Roman countryside. No modern houses, roads or telephone wires are visible on the horizon. The streets are so quiet one hears only the crickets in the trees and perhaps the echoes of ancient children playing stickball. As you walk along Ostia's main street, the Decumanus Maximus, your feet settle into deep ruts left by carrucas, the four-wheeled carts used to ferry merchandise and baggage between Rome and Ostia. A fleet of two-wheeled cisia provided public transportation for commuters.
Once inside the Roman Gate, you visit the Baths of Neptune with palaestra. Here, in a beautifully preserved mosaic measuring 55 feet by 36 feet, the sea god is seen riding a chariot drawn by four pawing horses. Nearby there is Ostia's amphitheater, built in 12 BC, a wonderfully preserved series of steep semicircular stone bleachers that hold 3500 spectators.
Behind the theater is the Forum of the Corporations, so called because its great rectangular portico housed the offices of sixty-four maritime companies. This was where you would come if you needed to ship something to Rome, be it wheat from Spain, sugar from India, or African beasts for the Coliseum games. To find the most suitable shipper, you would examine the mosaic names and pictures still visible on the ground in front of each office. If you were pleased with the deal, you would then offer a sacrifice at the Temple of Ceres, which rises over the middle of the Forum.
A few yards away, you can climb the high podium of the Collegiate Temple. Despite its name, this was actually a social club for men of the poorer classes, who used it to hold the kind of sumptuous banquet the rich could afford to have every day. These dinners usually began at 3 pm and often lasted until dawn. At another collegiate seat you'll find a triclinium, the semicircular couch upon which three men would have stretched, resting on their left elbows while they used their right hands to eat. The meals began with hors d'oeuvres, followed by seven courses. Then they started all over again, this time with entertainment and much more wine. Banquets were dedicated to the club's patron god or to newly deceased members, who needed food to sustain them on their journey to the afterlife.
Women were not invited, they would more likely have been next door, carrying their linens to the laundry-dye shop. Washing was done in the small terracotta tubs, sunken into the brick counters. This work was performed by slaves, whose shaved heads distinguished them. Logically enough, the laundry shop is next to the public baths. Walk through the main gate, where Ostians would have been met by a servant ready to help them change their clothes. In the meeting room, they would spend an hour or so chatting with friends or reading the newspaper. Then they would choose a combination of hot, cold, warm or steam baths. You can follow a winding underground passage, where servants lit boilers and emptied tubs without disturbing the clients. Above this you'll see the laconium, whose steam was provided by lead pipes still visible in the walls. Most Ostian buildings were heated this way, by hot air piped up from underground boilers.
Outside was the gymnastics field, where bathers practiced sports or calisthenics, or walked beneath covered porticoes. After a meal that might have included truffles, oysters, pate de fois, roast meats, "false fish" made of vegetables, or even a primitive kind of pasta, bathers could have a relaxing nap, use the library, attend a lecture, concert, play or circus performance. Little wonder that these ancient health clubs came to be the Ostians' favorite meeting place. At the height of the Roman Empire's glory, in the late 2nd century AD, men and women spent a good part of the day at these public establishments, mixing freely in the huge communal tubs that could accommodate up to 300 bathers at once.
Beyond the baths is a cluster of three and four-story apartment buildings. Many of them still have the groundfloor shops and dark, stuffy mezzanines where merchants and the lower classes lived. Climb the marble stairs to see the comfortable multi-room apartments that were inhabited by middle-class families. These dwellings would have had kitchens, with hot running water channeled through lead pipes in the wall. Most Ostian apartment buildings had inner courtyards where second-floor balconies overlooked a communal cistern and swimming pool. Some properties were rented out by landlords, but the better ones were actually like ancient condos, with all the tenants sharing facilities and expenses. One important facility shared by all was the communal forica, or latrine. Each building had at least one for its tenants. The most astonishing example is a large airy room, where a marble bench with twenty holes runs the length of all four walls. Sit on the holes and suddenly it will be graphically clear just how much time the ancient Romans spent in public.
The ancient town Pompei of Campania is situated near the river Sarnus, 2 miles from the shore of the Bay of Naples, almost at the foot of Mount Vesuvius. The foundation of Pompei was ascribed by Greek tradition to Heracles, in common with the neighboring city of Herculaneum, but it was certainly not a Greek colony. The region was first occupied by the Oscansi, afterwards the Tyrrhenians (Etruscans) and Pelasgians, and lastly the Saninites. The conquest of Campania by the last-mentioned people, is an undoubted historical fact and there can be no doubt that Pompei shared the fate of the neighboring cities on this occasion, and afterwards passed in common with them under the yoke of Rome. But its name is only once mentioned during the wars of the Romans with the Saninites and Campanians in this region of Italy, and then only incidentally when a Roman fleet landed near Pompei in 309 BC and made an unsuccessful marauding expedition up the river valley as far as Nuceria. At a later period, it took a prominent part in the outbreak of the nations of central Italy, known as the Social War (91 BC - 89 BC), when it withstood a long siege by Sulla, and was one of the last cities of Campania that were reduced by the Roman arms. The inhabitants were admitted to the Roman franchise, but a military colony was settled in their territory in 80 BC by Sulla, and the whole population was rapidly Romanized. The municipal administration here, as elsewhere, was in the hands of two "duoviri jure dicundo" and two "aediles", the supreme body being the city council (decuriones). Before the close of the republic it became a resort of the Roman nobles, many of whom acquired villas in the neighborhood. Among them was Cicero, whose letters abound with allusions to his Pompeian villa.
Only two events are recorded during the last years before 79 AD:
In 59 AD, a tumult took place in the amphitheatre between citizens and visitors from the neighboring colony of Nuceria. Many were killed and wounded on both sides. The Pompeians were punished for this violent outbreak by the prohibition of all theatrical exhibitions for ten years. A characteristic painting, found on the wall of one of the houses, gives a representation of this event.
In 63 AD, an earthquake which affected all the neighboring towns, vented its force especially upon Pompei. Most of the public buildings were destroyed or seriously damaged as to require to be rebuilt. From the existing remains it is clear that the inhabitants were still actively engaged in repairing and restoring the ruined edifices when the whole city was overwhelmed by the great eruption of 79 AD.
On the morning of 24 August 79 AD, a great noise was heard in the area around Mount Vesuvius. A mushroom shaped cloud of gas and volcanic rock rose high in the air, darkening the sky. A shower of burning cinders and rock fragments covered Pompei. It lasted until the next day, caving in roofs and claiming its first victims. The Pompeians tried to take shelter in the houses or hoped to escape by walking on top of the layers of pumice stones constantly being formed, which by this point were more than 2 meters deep. But at dawn on 25 August, a violent explosion of toxic gases and burning cinders devastated the city. It infiltrated everything, taking those who were trying to flee by surprise and making every form of defense vain. A shower of very fine ash was deposited everywhere to a depth of more than six meters, enveloping everything and adhering to the forms of the bodies and even the folds of their clothes. When, two days later, the fury of the elements abated, the entire area had a different aspect : a white blanket covered everything, the Sarno river was trying to find its course again after having been filled with volcanic rubble, and the coast, submerged by the material spewed forth by Vesuvius, had encroached on the sea. The whole city was declared off limits, to protect the property of the survivors, but clandestine diggers tried to plunder it anyway. For a long time the human presence was rare and marginal, and only under the emperor Hadrian, around 120 AD, was at least the road system in the area reopened to traffic.
An eye-witness report of the catastrophe is written in a letter from Pliny the Younger to the Roman historian Tacitus, in which he tells about the death of his uncle, Pliny the Elder, as he was trying to bring aid to the devastated cities. The Pompeiians had previous warnings, there were major earthquakes in the region in 62 AD. This tragic event was recorded by Pliny the Younger when he was only 17. Pliny the Elder witnessed fumes and lava coming from the volcano in the beginning of the explosion, but then he was called over to Pompei by boat to help some of his friends. But the waves in the Bay of Naples were so great, he could only get as far as Stabiae. A few stray fireballs came his way and he and his crew were wiped out.
A little over 1500 years later, under twenty-three feet of ash, a local farmer from the nearby town of Resina was building a well and came upon some extravagant pieces of marble. He thought he should get a large sum of money for these pieces. So he took them into the town and sold them to the marble worker. At that point in time the Austrians were occupying the area around Pompei. The Prince of Elbeuf was about to get engaged when he found the marble pieces in the shop. He was going to build an extensive villa for his wife and wanted beautiful sculptures and stones to surround it. He asked where the marble was found, and went to the site. There he offered a large sum of money for the land on which the stone was found, and the farmer accepted gladly, totally unaware of the riches that lay beneath the soil. It was there that Elbeuf planned his elegant villa. When he was starting to dig the foundation, he kept coming across pieces of sculptures and even some columns. He finally realized that there had been some ancient building around the area. What he found was the remains of the Theater of Herculaneum which he mistook for a temple. After thinking it was a temple he was disappointed and decided to abandon further excavations. However, when the Austrians were forced out of Naples and the surrounding area in 1734, King Charles the Third, a Spanish Bourbon King, displayed an interest in Elbeuf's discoveries. He continued the abandoned excavations and finally reached Pompei. There they found intact buildings and sculptures. One day, an archaeologist discovered a cellar containing a skeleton and directly outside of the complex, they found a skull. Following the discovery of the skull, archaeologists realized that the remainder of the body was hidden beneath the layers of preserved ash. Of course it was not the actual body, it was the impression of the body that left an outline under the ash. Archaeologists discovered that if you pour liquid plaster into the imprint in the ash, you could get a plaster cast of the body. Pompei was the first excavation where this technique was used, and the archaeologists found many figures of victims using this method. They also cast a figure of a guard dog outside one of the houses in Pompei.
Carlo di Borbone began excavations in 1748, as a way of increasing the fame and prestige of his nascent Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Digging proceeded sporadically, here and there at random, it was several years before the site was identified as Pompei, and even then there was no systematic town plan. The first features to be exposed were part of the necropolis outside Porta Ercolano, the temple of Isis and part of the theatres quarter. During the French occupation of Naples, 1806-1815, there was much more activity on the site, but with the restoration of the Bourbons excavations gradually slowed down again. Work was concentrated on the area of the amphitheatre and the Forum, as well as around Porta Ercolano and the theatres. The discovery of the House of the Faun containing the large mosaic depicting Alexander the Great in battle caught the imagination of people all over Europe ollowing the Unification of Italy in 1861, the appointment of Giuseppe Fiorelli as director marked a turning-point in the excavations. From now on the site was explored systematically, linking up the various features that had been exposed, detailed records were kept, and the wall paintings were left in situ, rather than being detached and taken to the museum in Naples. Fiorelli pioneered the practice of taking plaster casts, which gave dramatic substance to the victims of the eruption. From the early years of the 20th century the explorations spread eastwards along the ancient town's principal streets, and more attention was paid to the remains of the upper floors of buildings. In the years 1924 to 1961, the excavations were supervised by Amedeo Maiuri. This period of intense activity saw the discovery of prestigious buildings such as the Villa of the Mysteries, the complete recognition of the ancient town's perimeter, the excavation of most of Regio I and II and the necropolis of Porta Nocera, and the start of a methodical exploration of the strata lying below the level of 79 AD, to throw light on Pompei's past. Over recent years excavation work has been scaled down, in order to concentrate the limited resources available (by no means sufficient even for this objective) on restoring and maintaining the buildings which have already been exposed.
Some of the main buildings found were:
- the Amphitheater with the large Palaestra
- the Thermae : the Central baths
- the Thermae : the Forum baths
- the Thermae : the Stabian baths with small Palaestra
- the Gladiator Barracks with small Palaestra
- the Great Theater
- the House of the Faun
- the House of the Vetti
- the House of the Venus Marina
- the Odeon
- the Temple of Apollo
- the Temple of Isis
- the Villa of the Mysteries
The Amphitheater is an open space in the shape of an oval surrounded by seats for spectator sports. The Amphitheater seats 10.000 people. There are two entrances and exits on opposite sides. An excavator named Alcubierre started digging up the amphitheater in March 1748, and thought that he had found the old town of Stabiae. As soon as he discovered the rows of seats, he knew that his belief was incorrect. He did not find the town of Stabiae, but the Pompeian Amphitheater. He did not tell the rest of his team in fear that they would quit, so he named it the Stabian Theater. After a while, the excavators realized there were no silver or gold treasures and abandoned the site. The Amphitheater is one of the few buildings that has been completely restored. Nearby, the large Palaestra is an area surrounded by a colonade, a structure of the pre-Roman period, used for playing and/or practicing games.
Among the more important public buildings were the public baths (thermae). Three different establishments were discovered. The first, excavated in 1824, are the baths near the forum. Though the smallest of the three, it is in some respects the most complete and interesting, and it was the principal source from which we derived our knowledge of this important branch of the economy of Roman life. At Pompei, the baths are so well preserved and they are the most richly decorated of all the buildings in the city. The greater thermae, the Stabian baths, were originally built in 2nd century BC. The Stabian baths are on a much more extensive scale than the others and combine with the special purposes of a "palaestra" in the centre and rooms for exercise or recreation.
The city is born as a marketplace in the 12th century after the market town, that had grown around the ancient Roman "Villa Romana del Casale", was destroyed in 1161. It was an important commercial and political centre in the early middle ages when the Sicilian parliament was united there at several occasions. The city was known as "Piazza" (marketplace) until 1862 when it was changed to "Piazza Armerina". The city is best known for the ancient Roman villa, a medieval castle (Castello Aragonese) and a baroque cathedral.
The "Villa Romana del Casale" is located about 5km outside the town of Piazza Armerina. It is the richest, largest and most complex collection of late Roman mosaics in the world. The "Villa Roman del Casale" was constructed on the remains of an older villa in the first quarter of the 4th century, probably as the centre of a huge latifundium covering the entire surrounding area. How long the villa kept this role is not known, maybe for less that 150 years, but the complex remained inhabited and a village grew around it, named "Platia", derived from palatium. It was damaged, maybe destroyed during the domination of the Vandals and the Visigoths, but the buildings remained in use, at least in part, during the Byzantine and Arab period. The site was finally abandoned for good when a landslide covered the villa in the 12th century, and remaining inhabitants moved to the current location of Piazza Armerina.
The existence of the villa was almost entirely forgotten (some of the tallest parts have always been above ground) and the area used for cultivation. Pieces of mosaics and some columns were found early in the 19th century, and some excavations were carried out later in that century, but the first serious excavations were performed by Paolo Orsi in 1929, and later by Giuseppe Cultrera in 1935-1939. The latest major excavations were in the period 1950-60 by Gino Vinicio Gentile after which the current cover was build. A few very localized excavations have been performed in the 1970's by Andrea Carandini.
Two other late Roman villas have been found in Sicily : "Villa Romana del Tellaro" and "Villa Romana di Patti Marina". They are smaller, but architecturally very similar, and like the "Villa Romana del Casale" adorned with beautiful mosaics.
The mosaics are probably made by African artists in the early 4th century. The North African provinces were in the economic and artistic forefront in the 4th century, and polychrome mosaics were one of the specialties of the North African artists. The mosaics at the "Villa Romana del Casale" are clearly African in origin, and mosaics very similar has been found in Cartage and other places in North Africa. Many of the motives of the mosaics are also African in nature, especially the hunting scenes. A substantial part of the tesserae, the small coloured stones, used in the mosaics are of African origin, so it seems the mosaicists have brought with them the colors they couldn't find locally.
It has been debated a lot whether the mosaics are made at the same time or over a prolonged period, and if it is the work of a single or several groups of mosaicists. While it is probable that several schools or companies of mosaicists have participated due to the large quantity of mosaics, it is likely that almost all mosaics are made within a fairly short period of time. Motifs such as "fishing cupids" appear repeatedly, in every single part of the villa and unmistakably by the same artists or group of artists, so all the major parts of the villa must have been made within a short period of time, probably less than ten years. It is also highly unlikely that the commissioner of the villa would accept waiting decades for the last mosaics to be laid.
Little is known about the methods employed by the mosaicists. Many motifs, such as "lion killing antelope", "hunters carrying wild boar tied to a pole", "man on horseback abducting tiger's cub", "animals boarding ship" and "child killing animal with spear", appear in many other places around the empire, so it is likely that the mosaicists had some kind of catalogues of standard motifs that were used again and again. It is not known if such catalogues were shown to costumers or if they were internal company worksheets. A centralized production of mosaic fragments is not very likely, since such fragments would be fragile and prone to breaking during transportation. It would be easier to move the workmen. The most likely model is that the complete composition was made on location, as it had to be fitted to the exact space available, using well-known motifs for some parts and custom made motifs for others.
There has almost certainly been some division of labor between the mosaicists. The masters probably made the overall composition and maybe drew it on the ground, and skilled tessellarii, the tessarae layers, would make the central parts, less skilled apprentices the standard motifs and the latest novices the white spaces. There is some signs that the workforce was stretched to the limit during the work in the villa. A non-standard mosaic as the chariot races in the palaestra is certainly drawn by a skilled designer, but the workmanship is poor. Maybe the better skilled workmen were already busy in more important rooms, forcing the master to assign a less skilled workforce to the circus mosaic.
Rooms with particularly interesting mosaics are:
- The corridor of the great hunt with hunting scenes from Africa, an allegory of India or Arabia, and the embarkation of the animals for transport to the Colosseum in Rome.
- The Triclinium has magnificent mosaics with mythological motives related to the Labours of Hercules, showing the arrow stricken giants, the carnage after the Twelve Labours of Hercules, and Hercules' coronation and introduction in Olympus.
- In the smaller private apartments there is the Vestibule of Polyphemus with a mosaic of Ulysses and Polyphemus ; the cubicle with erotic mosaic which is a bedroom with geometric mosaics with an erotic scene ; and the cubicle of fruits, another cubiculum with geometric mosaics with depictions of fruit.
- In the larger private apartments there are the Atrium of the Fishing Cupids with more scenes of fishing cupids ; the Vestibule of Eros and Pan ; the Cubicle of Children Hunting ; the Hall of Arion ; the Vestibule of the Small Circus.
- In the public rooms there are the Hall of Orpheus with mosaics of birds and wildlife ; and the famous Room with playing girls in bikini.
- In the thermal baths : the frigidarium with scenes of fishing cupids ; the palaestra with horse races at the Circus Maximus ; and the entrance to the baths with a "family picture" of the domain with children and slaves.
- In the guest rooms there is the room of the dance with dancing women ; the room of the fishing cupids with scenes of fishing cupids and seafood ; the room of the little hunt with hunting scenes with offering to Diana.
- In the Entrance area there is only the tablinum with a mosaic of the host welcoming the guests.
Bath has some of the best preserved Roman remains in Britain, with the most spectacular of these being the Roman Baths which is a Roman temple and bathing complex in Bath. Along with Hadrians Wall, these Roman Baths are Britain's greatest memorial to the Roman Era. This complex was built almost 2000 years and is still flowing with natural hot water today just like it was back then. This natural hot water springs attraction dates back even further, as by the time the Romans arrived in 43 AD there was already a community of Celts encamped around the hot springs. The Romans saw the potential of the place and evicted the British inhabitants and turned the area into "Aquae Sulis" complete with Bath Houses, a temple, and various civic buildings. When the Romans eventually pulled out of Britain, the Celts let the Baths fall into ruin although a settlement still stayed within the Roman walls. By the time the Saxons arrived in 577, the great Roman Baths had been lost to flood and ruin, and they remained buried it through centuries until 1790. Mock Roman statues were added by the Victorians but the main bath is largely intact. The original bases of the stone columns that supported the original Roman roof are still well preserved and so is the lead pipe that carried water from one of the city's four natural hot springs
The Sacred Spring lies at the very heart of the ancient monument. Water rises here at the rate of over a million liters a day and at a temperature of 460C. The Spring rises within the courtyard of the Temple of Sulis Minerva and water from it feeds the Roman baths. There is some slight evidence, an earthen bank projecting into the Spring, that suggests it was already a focal point for worship before the Roman Temple and baths were built.
Roman engineers surrounded the Spring with an irregular stone chamber lined with lead. To provide a stable foundation for this they drove oak piles into the mud. At first this reservoir formed an open pool in a corner of the Temple courtyard but in the 2nd century AD it was enclosed within a barrel vaulted building and columns and statue bases were placed in the Spring itself. Enclosing the Spring in a dimly lit building in this way and erecting statues and columns within it must have enhanced the aura of mystery that surrounded it. Offerings were thrown into the Spring throughout the Roman period. Eventually the vaulted building collapsed into the Spring itself. We do not know when this was, but it is likely to have been in the 6th or 7th century. The oak piles sunk into the mud two thousand years ago continue to provide a stable foundation for the Roman reservoir walls today.
The Temple at Bath was built in a classical style and is unusual in Britain as only one other truly classical temple (the temple of Claudius at Colchester) is known. It dates to the later 1st century AD. The Bath Temple stood on a podium more than two meters above the surrounding courtyard. It was approached by a flight of steps. As one approached it there were four large, fluted Corinthian columns supporting a frieze and decorated pediment above. Behind the columns was a large door to the cella where the cult statue of the goddess was kept. This room would have been dimly lit without windows, with the only light coming through the doorway and from the Temple fire burning before the cult statue. In the later 2nd century, the Temple was modified by the addition of small side chapels and the construction of an ambulatory around it. This change moved away from the simple classical style as first built and turned the Temple into something more akin to other Romano (Celtic temples from Roman Britain). These changes coincided with the enclosure of the sacred Spring within a new building and may reflect a change in ritual practice at the site. The Temple remained a focal point for worship until late in the 4th century AD. As Christianity gathered strength the old pagan religion was marginalized and in 391 AD the Emperor Theodosius ordered the closure of pagan temples throughout the Empire. The Temple fell into a state of disrepair and eventually collapsed. Some of the carved stones from the pediment were re-used as paving slabs in the courtyard and their chance survival has helped us build a picture of one of Roman Britain’s most remarkable religious buildings.
This was a place of worship and sacrifice where ceremonies took place around the great altar that formed a ritual focus in front of the Temple. The courtyard was the sacred space surrounding the temple building and was contained within a colonnaded perimeter wall. In one corner the Sacred Spring poured out a supply of hot water that was more than enough to serve the huge baths complex to the south. The original courtyard was encroached upon during Roman times. Small side chapels were built to either side of the Temple steps. The Spring was enclosed by a building that was supported by buttresses and an entranceway on the south side of the courtyard and another building, known as "the four seasons" from the decoration of its facade, was built on the north side of the courtyard. The space was cluttered with altars placed near the Temple by worshippers. As the Roman Temple declined in the later fourth century so did the quality of maintenance in the courtyard. Further encroachment took place and rather half hearted attempts at maintaining a paved surface were made in the fifth and probably sixth century. The area was subject to occasional flooding at this time, no doubt as a result of poorly maintained drainage for the Spring.
The Roman bathing complex at Bath was completely out of proportion to the size of the Roman town here. Fed with naturally hot water from the Sacred Spring, it was designed to cater to the needs not just of local people, but of people who travelled as pilgrims from across the Empire. The baths at Bath were unusual not just for their size, but also for the fact that they used so much hot water. Roman bathing did not normally use much hot water, as this was expensive to produce. Instead Roman bathing was based around the practice of moving through a series of heated rooms culminating in a cold plunge at the end. This sequence might include an opportunity to luxuriate in a hot tub or a small bath of hot water in the caldarium, but it did not involve swimming around in a great hot swimming pool such as that provided at Bath.
The Great Bath was the centre piece of the Roman bathing establishment. It was fed with hot water directly from the Sacred Spring and provided an opportunity to enjoy a luxurious warm swim. The bath is lined with 45 thick sheets of lead and is 1,6 meters deep. Access is by four steep steps that entirely surround the bath. On the centre of the north side there was originally a fountain feature fed by its own lead pipe from the Sacred Spring. At some point this was replaced with a smaller and rather curious fountain which is made from a re-used funerary monument with a hole cut through it to allow the passage of a pipe. A large flat slab of stone is set across the point where hot water flows into the bath. It is known today as the diving stone and this may have been its original purpose. The bath was originally roofed with a pitched timber construction, but this was replaced in the 2nd century with a much heavier ceramic vault that required strengthened pillars to support it. The result was that the original slender pillars were thickened and projected into the bath itself.
- The eastern range of the bath house contained a large tepid bath fed by water that flowed through a pipe from the Great Bath. A series of heated rooms were developed here which became progressively larger until the site reached it maximum extent in the 4th century AD.
- The western range of the bath house contained a series of heated rooms and plunge pools. The development of suites of heated rooms at both the western and eastern ends of the site may have allowed simultaneous use of the site by both men and women, but maintained a seemly separation of facilities for them.
The King’s Bath was built, using the lower walls of the Roman Spring building as foundations, in the 12th century. The bath provided niches for bathers to sit in, immersed up to their necks in water. On the south side of the bath is a seat beneath the waterline, known as the Master of the Baths chair, that was donated in the 17th century. Although modified and encroached upon by the building of the Grand Pump Room in the 18th century and subsequent 19th century developments, the King’s Bath continued in use for curative bathing until the middle of the 20th century. The bath is overlooked by a statue of King Bladud, the mythical discoverer of the hot waters and founder of the City of Bath.
Wroxeter (Viriconium Cornoviorum), located in Shropshire near Wales, was the fourth largest town in Roman Britain and served briefly as a Legionary Fortress in the 1st century AD. It was probably named from the same source as the Wrekin hillfort which overlooks the site from the east. The "civitas" capital of the Cornovi tribe, it remained an important town throughout the Roman era (AD 43-410). Portions of the public bathhouse are visible at the site today, including a large section of standing wall separating the gymnasium (palaestra) from the bath. The wall was built of cut stones with bonding layers of flat bricks or paving tiles.
Arles is the site of the Phoenician town of Theline from the 7th century BC. Large amounts of 6th-century BC Greek pottery found here indicate that this was a staging post for river traffic between Marseille (Massalia) and northern Gaul. In the 4th-century BC, this was the Celtic-Ligurian town of Arelate, meaning "the town by the marshes". Arles was one of the richest urban centers in France during the Gallo-Roman period. In 102 BC, Marius started construction of the Fossae Marianae, a shipping canal paralleling the Grand Rhone from Arelate to the sea. In 46 BC, Roman legion veterans were settled here, in a large territory taken from the Salyen tribe and from Massalia. At this time, Arelate became Colonia sextanorum, and later Arles. Caesar used local shipyards for building warships to fight against Massalia in 49 BC. The port brought prosperity to Arles during the reign of Augustus, and by the time of Constantine (306-337) it was the second capital of the Empire. Ausonius called it "the little Rome of Gaul". Barbarian invasions from the 5th to 9th centuries were devastating, and Arles didn't recover until Charlemagne's empire, when it became the capital of and independent state, the Kingdom of Arles. In 1521, Arles was permanently attached to the Comte de Provence.
Some ancient Roman monuments:
The Roman Amphitheater, measuring 136 by 107 m in diameter and the largest of its kind north of Italy, could hold up to 25.000 spectators, most packed into tiny spaces about 16 inches (40 cm) wide, with feather-like symbols marking blocks of five seats. Reserved seats were held by various religious organizations, including sects of the Roman forest god Silvanus and the Egyptian goddess Isis. The two levels of the amphitheater each contain 60 arches, with Doric half-columns on the lower level, and Corinthian half-columns on the upper. The similar amphitheater at Nimes is only slightly smaller, measuring 133 by 101 m. While the earliest amphitheater at Arelate was made of wood, reconstruction in stone began by 16 BC, when part of the circuit wall was demolished. The central arena floor, however, always remained a wooden platform, raised 2 m above the underlying rock surface. A Gallic rebellion led by C. Julius Vindex at the end of Nero's reign (AD 54 to 68), which precipitated his downfall in favor of Galba (68 to 69 AD), probably interrupted the final phases of the amphitheater's stone reconstruction. In the Middle Ages the amphitheater was used as a fortress, with two towers surviving from this period. Today, the arena is used for bullfights in summer.
The Roman Baths of Constantine (4th century AD) are the largest baths of the Provence.
The Roman Circus, used for chariot races, lay outside the ancient city along the Rhone river in the La Roquette quarter, near the new archaeological museum. Originally identified by Formige, the surviving foundations have sunk 1.5 m into the soft ground. Excavations in recent years have revealed thousands of oak and pine posts which underlay the foundation of the circus to support it. These have been dated to AD 148/9 in the reign of the emperor Antoninus Pius (138 to 161 AD). An obelisk of Egyptian granite which originally stood in the spina, or center of the circus, was removed in the 17th century to the Place de la Republique in Paris. The circus at Arelate measured about 400 by 100 m. The Circus Maximus in Rome, by comparison, was 550 by 106 m in the late Republic and early Empire, and could hold about 150.000 spectators, later expansion increased this to 385.000.
The Roman Theatre dates to the Augustan era of 27 BC to AD 14, making it one of the earliest free-standing theaters to use radiating walls and galleries. Restoration, completed in the 1900's by J. Formigé, showed the original size to be 102 m, similar to the theater at Orange. Up to10.000 people could be seated amid elegant decorations. The orchestra section was paved in green marble trimmed with red, with numerous statues adorning the building, including a bust of Aphrodite, a statue of Augustus, and an altar to Apollo, his patron god, on the stage. The facade held reliefs of bull's heads (bucrania), symbol of the Sixth Legion, whose veterans had colonized Arles.
Augusta Treverorum, later renamed as Trier, was founded in the year 16 BC by the Romans under the regime of emperor Augustus, near the original sanctuary of the Celtic Treverer. At the end of the 3rd century AD, emperor Diokletian made Treveris, as Trier was called at that time, the seat of his court and capital city of the west Roman part of his empire. Many buildings from the Roman period survived the centuries such as the Porta Nigra (Black Gate), the Roman Bridge, the Amphitheatre, the Constantine's Basilica and the Imperial Baths. Nowadays the Landesmuseum (State Museum) is full of Roman finds. Nearly at the same time a centre of early Christianity developed in Trier. Parts of the Cathedral date from that time. The Franconians conquered Trier in the 5th century and it became part of the East Franconian-German empire during the Carolingian Imperial Separation in 870. In virtue of the construction of the Market Cross, the Great Market became the centre of the medieval city in 958. In the 12th century the archbishops of Trier became German Electors. They made Trier the capital of their Electorate, which led to experiences of very good and bad times until the dissolution of the Electorate at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. For a short time Trier was under the reign of France, then it became a part of Prussia in 1815. During that period, Karl Marx was born here, today this house is a museum. Since 1945 Trier has been part of the state Rhineland Palatinate in Germany.
There is a legend that Trier was founded by an Assyrian price named Trebeta, the son of King Ninus. That would make Trebeta the stepson of Semiramis, the queen of Babylon who is associated with the hanging gardens of Babylon. Ninus is sometimes said to be Nimrod of the bible (see Genesis 10:10-11). Ninus was the builder of the city Ninevah. There is evidence of an Assyrian King, Tukulti-Ninurta, who lived from 1246 to 1206 BC who could be the Ninus of the legend. Thus, the inhabitants of Trier claim that their city is the oldest in all of Europe and existed more than a millennia before Rome. There is an inscription on the "Red House" near the market center in Trier, which reads "Ante Roman Treviris stetit annis mille trecentis," which means Trier existed 1300 years before Rome. Evidence has been found of civilization in the area dating to 3000 BC.
The legend of Trebeta may or may not be based in fact but what is known is that when the Romans came north to Germany, they met a Celtic tribe named the Trevari. The word Germany comes from the Roman "Germanus" that referred to all the non-Roman peoples in Central Europe. The Trevari are known from the commentaries of Julius Caesar who wrote that the Treveri were war-like and known for their horsemanship. He said they had the best calvary in all of Gaul. Their origin is unknown but they were said to be more Celtic than Gaulish or Teutonic. The Teutons were in areas north and east of the Celts. Although modern people might think of Ireland or Scotland when Celts are mentioned, the Celts actually had been in Central Europe during the Iron Age or at least by the 6th century BC. The Treveri were known as Celts by their language. In the 4th century Saint Jerome noticed the similarity of the language of the Treveri to that of the Galatians, who resided in what would become modern day Turkey. Celts are generally believed to have been seafaring people who made their way to Western Europe from the Middle East.
The Treveri tribe lived in the middle and lower Mosel River valley between the Rhine and Meuse Rivers. Aptly, one possible meaning of Trevari is "water-crossers". Their camps extended from the Ardennes to the densely pine-covered Hunsruck and Eifel Mountain ranges. The area is very hilly and their life was based much more on hunting than agriculture. Their world was one of hill forts, druids and rival chieftains. Some of the other tribes in the area were the Medoniatrici to the north, the Remi to the west and the Euburones to the south.
The area the Trevari lived in was known as Gaul or "Gallia" in Latin. Gaul was the land south and west of the Rhine River and west of the Alps and North of the Pyrenees. The Romans named many cities in Gaul for a local tribe. For example, Paris was named for the Parissi Tribe, Tours was named for the Turones Tribe, Riems was named for the Remi Tribe and Nantes was named for the Namnetes Tribe. It was during the Galli Wars that Julius Caesar gained his fame.
In 55 BC, Caesar was facing troubles with the Treveri. By this time, Gaul was already partially under Roman influence and Caesar had his eyes on Britain. However, before he could focus on Britain he had to deal with the unrest and rebellion of the Treveri. At the time, there was competition for leadership of the tribe between two leaders, Indutionomarus and Cingetorix. Caesar took four legions and 800 calvary and marched in the area. Caesar discovered that Cingetorix had the weaker position of the Treveri leaders and convinced him to align himself with the Romans. Thus, by exploiting the internal struggle and putting the might of Rome behind Cingetorix, Caesar was able to bring an end to the rebellion.
Later, Indutionomarus was part of another revolt. By combining his might with other tribes, Indutionomarus was able to gain victory over a Roman legion. The Romans offered a reward for him, dead or alive. A traitor from his own people killed Indutionomarus. Caesar put down another revolt by the Gaulish leader, Vercingetorix, in 53 BC. Through many battles and pitting rival tribes and leaders against one another, Caesar brought Gaul under the full influence of Rome.
In 16 BC, Trier was founded as August Treverorum in honor of the Emperor Augustus. In 18 BC, the Romans built a wooden bridge here at a bend in the Mosel River. It was near a tribal sanctuary of the Treveri Tribe. From humble beginnings, Trier became a provincial capital and eventually the administrative center for the Western Empire including all of Gaul, Britain and Spain. Having their town become a Roman capital was probably a mixed blessing for the Treveri. It certainly brought economic prosperity, security and status but it also meant complete Romanization and the eventual loss of their own cultural identity.
In 40 AD, the Roman Geographer Pomponius Mela called Trier "urbs opulentissima", the most beautiful town in Gaul. About 100 AD, a 25000 seat amphitheater was built by the Romans, portions of it still exist and are a tourist attraction. In 180 AD, the Romans built a four mile long wall around the city which had five gates which were each about a hundred feet high and made of sandstone blocks. The north gate or Porta Nigra (black gate) still exits. The stones were cut by bronze saws powered by sawmills. No mortar was used but rather the stones were held together with iron clamps, which were placed in holes in the stone, which were filled will molten lead. This was Trier’s "Golden Age". The Western Roman Emperor Postumus had a residence in Trier. Diocletian made Trier one of the four capitals of his empire including Trier, York, Milan and Rome.
For a short period, from 263 to 274 AD, the Celts united and formed a Gallic Empire which included all of Gaul. In 275, Trier was destroyed by the Alemannen and burned to the ground. By 293, the city recovered and regained its status as one of the great capitals of the Roman Empire. In the 4th century, the city was inhabited by as many as 80000 people.
Trier had religious significance long before it’s role in the Holy Roman Empire. Two Christian Clerics, Eucharius and Valerius, traveled here in the late 3rd century. Saint Helena lived here in the 4th century and brought many relics to the city including the holy coat, which is believed to be the seamless garment of Jesus that the Romans cast lots for. The first bishop of Trier, Saint Agrecius was responsible for the holy coat and other relics. Saint Agrecius served for twenty years until about 332.
Some people believe that Saint Helena brought the relics of Saint Matthias, the replacement apostle for Judas, to Trier. Others believe Saint Matthias was martyred in Ethiopia. It is possible that the relics she had were those of a Bishop of Jerusalem named Matthias who died in 120 AD. It was due to her finding another relic, the cross of Jesus that Helena was made a saint. Although she was born a commoner, she married well and her husband, Constantius Chlorus, and later her son, Constantine, were Roman Emperors.
In 293, Constantius Chlorus was elected Emperor of the Western Empire in Trier. He made his imperial residence there and the town became known for the arts and sciences. Trier became a large producer of both woolens and wine. Contantius Chlorus’ son, Constantine, also became Emperor at Trier and lived there from 306 to 316 AD.
Constantine helped restore Trier and built the 400.000 square foot imperial baths (the Kaiserthermen), an army barracks, administrative buildings and the Aula Palatina, which was his palace. The palace or basilica still exists as an Evangelical Lutheran Church and is the second largest surviving Roman structure besides the pantheon in Rome. Where the altar is today in the Basilica is where Constantine had his throne. Frankish and Alemanic chieftains, upon entering the basilica, would have to travel through a 250 foot long hall to a chamber which was 220 feet long, 90 feet wide and as much as 107 feet high where they were received by Constantine. The palace was built to impress the local leaders with Rome’s authority. It was at this time that Trier became known as the "Second Rome". Actually, at the time, Rome was already in decline and Trier was probably the more important of the two cities. After Constantine chose Constantinople as his capital, his sons continued to reside there.
In 312, Constantine was preparing for a battle against Caesar Maxentius as part of an internal Roman struggle. Before the decisive battle with Maxentius, Constantine had a dream where he saw a shining cross in the sky with the inscription "By this conquer". Constantine’s conversion, edicts regarding the acceptance of Christianity and ending of the persecution of Christians led to the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman empire and for this he is sometimes called the equal of the apostles. Constantine was responsible for the spread of Christianity beyond the Alps, an act that had an immeasurable impact on later European history.
In 332, Saint Maximinus became the Bishop of Trier. With Trier being the seat of the Western Emperor of Rome, Maximunus had influence with the Emperors Constantine II and Constans, the sons of Constantine. He defended the faith against Arianism, a widespread heresy at the time that denied the divinity of Jesus. Maximunus was buried at Saint Johns near Trier, which later became a Benedictine Abbey.
In 340 AD, Saint Ambrose was born in Trier. He became the Bishop of Milan and advisor to the Roman Emperor Gratian. His preaching is said to be the catalyst for the conversion of Saint Augustine. His life’s work included writings on biblical interpretation and arrangements of hymns and psalms that became known as Ambrosian Chant.
In 395, the Roman Empire was formally divided into an eastern and western empire. In 475, at the end of the Roman Empire, the Franks sacked Trier. The prefecture was transferred form Trier to Arles, as the Romans could no longer defend the town against German attacks. After 490 years in Trier, the Romans were defeated in the 6th century by the Frankish King Clovis. Clovis became the ruler of Gaul and his successors, the Marovingian monarchy, ruled until 751. In 496, Clovis accepted Christianity and began the practice of appointing bishops, which was a precursor to the tangled authority of religious and princely rulers in later days. Trier, under the Germans, fell to not much more than it had been in pre-Roman times due to the constant destruction of the town in battles between the Germans and Romans and the loss of its Roman benefactors. The population of Trier fell to only 3000 people.
About 800, Charlemagne brought the Franks, German and Saxons under a single ruler and claimed the mantle of the Roman Empire. From the time of Charlemagne, in the 7th century, until the time of Napoleon, in the 19th century, Trier was either a part of or heavily influenced by what became known as the Holy Roman Empire. Through this thousand-year time span, borders and power constantly changed hands. Although the Holy Roman Empire was ruled by successors of Charlemagne it was not known as such until the coronation of Otto I in 962. In 802, under Charlemagne, the Bishop of Trier became an Archbishop and the town gained prestige and power. In 870, the Kingdom of the West Franks became France and the Kingdom of the East Franks became Germany.
In the 9th century, the town was subject to Scandinavian (Viking) invasions. The Vikings (later associated with the Normans) rowed their longboats up the Rhine and the Mosel Rivers to Trier and sacked the town in 822.
In 1248, a new city wall was built. Before this, houses were left to their own defense and often built as residential towers. Ladders, which could be quickly pulled up during tense times, were used to enter the towers. In 1307, at the age of 22, Baldwin of Luxembourg became Trier’s Archbishop and Prince Elector. He was the brother of Henry VII and grand uncle of Charles IV, two Holy Roman Emperors. Balduin made sure his successors were among the electors of the Holy Roman Empire. This is an excellent example of the overlapping of religious and political authority common in this period of Trier’s history.
In 1356, Charles IV issued the Golden Bull, which formalized the elector process of the Holy Roman Empire. Prior to this, the princes of Germany elected the Emperor. In addition to the Archbishop of Trier, electors included the Archbishops of Cologne and Mainz, the King of Bohemia, the Count of the Rhine, the Duke of Saxony and the Margrave of Brandenburg. Once the electors chose the emperor, the Pope would crown him in Rome. This small group held tremendous political power and as Trier grew in significance it’s population grew to 12000 people. After 1436, Holy Roman Emperors were only chosen from the house of Habsburg.
In 1418, the Jewish population was expelled from Trier. They were not invited back until after 1600. The descendants of those who did return would suffer the Nazi holocaust three centuries later.
In 1473, during an imperial diet, a university was founded in Trier. It operated until 1797 when it closed. It was nearly two centuries later, in 1970, before another University was opened in Trier. In 1512, on the occasion of another imperial diet, the Holy Robe was first displayed.
By 1555, Lutheranism was the recognized religion of most of northern and central Germany but the Reformation did not take hold in Trier. The Weaver’s Guild of the town was against the rule of the Archbishop in Trier but he had the backing of the empire so the weavers, en mass, emigrated from the town. Bad wine harvests and hundreds of witch trials plagued the late 16th century.
From the time of the Thirty Years War in 1618, Trier was subject to French incursions. During one siege, the French burned the town. At the time, Trier was only 30 miles from the border of France. Not counting those in the monasteries, Trier’s population again fell below 3000 people.
In 1794, Napoleon marched into the Rhineland and annexed it to France. In 1803, the State of Trier was abolished. In 1804, Napoleon made a ceremonial visit to Trier. By 1806, the Holy Roman Empire was completely gone and with it the influence of the Archbishop of Trier as an elector. The population of the town fell below 10000 residents.
On 5 May 1818, Karl Marx, the author of "The Communist Manifesto" with Frederic Engles and of the three volume "Das Capital," was born in Trier. He became known as the father of socialism because of his economic theories. For a time, he was a newspaper editor and from 1852 until 1862 he was a correspondent for the New York Tribune. There is a Karl Marx museum in Trier but it is said that attendance has fallen off in recent years. Nevertheless, it is the birthplace of a person who greatly influenced modern history.
In 1844, an exhibition of the Holy Coat was held and nearly a million pilgrims visited Trier. Another major exhibition was held in 1891 and almost two million pilgrims journeyed there. In 1933, 1959 and 1996, major exhibitions were held, the current plan is not to display the coat again. Apparently, it can be damaged by movement, lights and flash photography.
In the 1860’s, the railroad came to Trier and the area began to prosper again. In 1871, Otto Von Bismarck, the Premier of Prussia and later Chancellor of Germany, united Germany. After centuries of a fractured ruling system, the invasion of Napoleon finally brought a sense of nationalism to Germany and created a need for unification. By 1900, Trier had a population of 50,000.
During World War 1, Trier was bombed 50 times. After the war, France occupied the town and a French Garrison, under a young Major Charles DeGaulle, was stationed there.
During World War 2, Trier was again heavily bombed and many medieval buildings were damaged. Trier was on the southern shoulder of the Battle of the Bulge behind the German "west wall" in late 1944. By 27 February 1945 General George Patton had advanced within six miles of Trier. Patton relished the opportunity to travel along "Caesar’s Road" to Trier. He had the use of the 10th Armored Division from a prior battle at the Saar River and was supposed to have returned it to the control of the Allied Headquarters (SHAEF) by 23 February. He persuaded Allied Headquarters to give him a 48-hour extension with the division. In one of his books, Patton later complained "it always made me mad to beg for opportunities to win battles". He later secured another extension until the 27th from General Bradley for the expressed purpose of taking Trier but by the 27th he had still not captured the city. Patton was slowed by minefields and Germans troops who were regrouping around the city. Bradley and Patton spoke again on the 27th and Bradley agreed to sidestep the subject as long as he could with headquarters. Under the light of a full moon, a task force was sent in by secondary roads on the evening of 28th with the goal of taking the bridges over the Mosel. The Germans had blown up the northern bridge but the "Romerbrucke", a Roman Bridge which dates to 144 AD, was captured intact. The next morning Patton received a communication from Allied Headquarters ordering him to bypass Trier since it was believed it would take 4 divisions to capture it. Patton replied "Have taken Trier with two divisions. What do you want me to do ? Give it back ?" On 7 May 1945 the Germans surrendered. After the war, Trier became part of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate.
Some important buildings or monuments:
- the Abbey of St. Martin
- the Amphitheatre
- the Basilika (Aula Palatina)
- the Church of Our Lady
- the Church of St. Antonius
- the Church of St. Gangolph
- the Collegiate of St. Simeon, St. Irminen, St. Matthias, St. Maximin, St. Paulin
- the Elector's Palace
- the Great Market
- the House of the three Magi (Dreikonigshaus)
- the Mariensaule
- the Old City Wall
- the Old Crane
- the Old Roman Bridge
- the Porta Nigra
- the St. Peter's Cathedral (Dom)
- the Thermae : Barbara Baths
- the Thermae : Forum Baths
- the Thermae : Imperial Baths (Kaiserthermen)
- the Tower of Franco (Frankenturm)
The Amphitheatre, on the outskirts of the modern, as well as the Roman town, was built into the very slope of the Petrisberg, not far away from the Weinlehrpfad. The theatre was built about 100 AD, richly decorated during the following centuries. Its western half held the imperial box and seats reserved for high-ranking civil servants. Its main entrances, to the north and south, had originally been provided with magnificent facades with ample space for three passages and vaulted entrances. On its western side, two smaller doors led upwards and to the tiers. The arena had room for roughly 20000 spectators. In the 4th and 5th centuries the Amphitheatre was at the same time a town gateway, so that the north entrance lay inside and the south entrance outside the town walls. The gate structures and the remaining walls were used for quarrying in the Middle Ages and also later on.
In Roman times, the spacious and richly ornamented building of the "Barbara Bath" (Torso of an Amazon and other sculptures are now exhibited in the Landesmuseum) stood close to the bridge over the Moselle which is a short walk from the Basilica of St. Matthias. These public baths, considerably older than the Imperial Baths, were built, probably of equally impressive size, about 150 AD, although not as high as the others. Mainly because the old walls, as those of the Amphitheatre, served as a conveniently situated quarry until the 17th century, the ruins are not so impressive as those of the Imperial Baths. Their name of "Barbara Thermae" actually derives from the suburb of St. Barbara, later on built on part of the old site. An impressive and convincing proof of the skill of urban architecture of that period, these baths were built near the bridge across the Moselle at the western end of the town's Roman Main Street, leading eastwards, from the Moselle bridge to the Imperial Baths and then to the Amphitheatre. Later on, during the Middle Ages, this same street with its walls, towers (Red Tower) and gates ("Neutor") became the town's southern boundary. This is today the Sudallee and Kaiserstrasse.
Besides the construction of an Imperial Palace (Elector's Palace), the building of palatial Imperial baths was another ambitious project within the enormous building programme of the Imperial Roman period during the first half of the 4th century, and the Thermae of Trier counted among the most spacious in the whole Roman Empire. The Imperial Thermae are not far from the Amphitheatre, at the edge of the Palace Garden. But even before being completed, the whole reconstruction of the new building was well on the way. So far, no clues have been found, pointing to their further use, but it seems fairly probable that their connection with the complex of the Imperial Palace was somehow maintained. The planning and general lay-out of its available space was guided by and based upon only two principles : size and symmetry. The hot-water baths (Caldarium), a hall containing a huge semicircular pool on the long east wall of the rectangular building, and two smaller pools along the shorter wall are the best preserved part of the Thermae. The far-spreading network of corridors in the builing's basement, almost as intricate as a labyrinth, they are now re-excavated and can be entered, were necessary for the maintenance of the heating system and also, for the drainage of the waste-water from the baths, while at the same time providing access to the stair towers and light shafts. The many finds made in the Thermae give ample proof of the display of luxury in connection with the Thermae's interior decoration : walls paneled with marble, mosaics and sculptures. The sports grounds are located outside the enclosed facilities.
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