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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

BATH: The Roman Baths


Bath's Roman name was Aquae Sulis (the waters of Sulis) named after the Celtic goddess, Sulis. The building that houses the Roman baths is from the 18th century. There's a Georgian Pump Room on the ground floor. The baths are below street level and include four main features: the Sacred Spring; Roman temple, and the Roman bath houses.

The baths were not discovered and explored until th elate 19th century. Their complex structure allows you to glimpse the genius of the Romans who loved their baths and made it part of their daily ritual. (I've seen the ruins of Roman baths in Greece as well, however none so complex and beautiful as these at Bath).


The baths were formed from the natural hot springs that the area is famous for. In the Sacred Spring, which is the heart of the site, the water temperature is 46C. The mineral rich water burbles up at the rate of 1,170,000 litres every day as it has for thousands of years.

The Romans believed it was a work of the gods and built a Temple next to the spring dedicated to Sulis Minerva, a deity with healing powers. The first shrine at this site was built by Celts and dedicated to their goddess Sulis who the Romans identified with Minerva.

The Gorgon's head was a powerful sign of Minerva and this carving has a distinctly Celtic style to it. The Temple was constructed in 60 - 70 AD and the bathing complex built up over the next 300 years. After the Romans withdrew from Britain in the first decade of the 5th C. the baths fell into disrepair and were probably destroyed in the 6th C. Over the centuries they were redeveloped and now are housed in 18th century buildings. They were a popular tourist destination in the 18th and 19th centuries.

If you go, allow yourself lots of time to browse around. It is truly one of the most fascinating sites I've ever visited. There are even a few "Romans" roaming around, dressed in togas.

We were limited in time at Bath because we wanted to make it to Salisbury and had to get back to London later that day to pick up our luggage and head for Wales. So, regretfully, we left this beautiful, interesting little town and headed back to the train station.

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