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Ancient Rome - The baths of Caracalla

 

 

 

  

 Ancient Rome - The Baths of Caracalla

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The Baths of Caracalla

        The Baths of Caracalla are the largest intact bath in Rome.

The Baths of Caracalla,  were commissioned by the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, who was commonly referred to as Caracalla.  Disliked in Rome  for the murder of his brother, with whom he vied for the  throne, and hated throughout the Empire for his cruelty, Caracalla is mainly remembered for the enormous complex of baths bearing his name.

        The mosaics at the Baths of Caracalla are well worth seeing.

The Bath complex at Caracalla, which is at the foot of the Aventine Hill,  was spread over 27 acres and was reputed to be large enough to handle over 1500 visitors at a time.  The facility offered  hot baths, warm baths, stream baths, and cold baths.  Food was served, recreation was available in the form of a gymnasium and field sports and live music were played in some of the larger some rooms. Many have likened the Roman baths to a social club and leisure center.

 

Built in the early 3rd Century (A.D,) the baths were an engineering marvel.  Water for the baths was provided by a aqueduct from a relatively distant source (approximately 35 miles).  The water flowed by gravity and engineering its  flow, heating and exit throughout this large facility was a significant feat.  Fresh water entered at an "upper" level where is was separated and heated in a number of chambers and tubes.  Waste water outlets carried used water to a lower level, so that the waste water could exit the facility without the chance of mixing with the fresh water.  Storage areas were filled with charcoal and wood to fuel the furnaces needed to heat the water.

Although the Baths of Caracalla were destroyed by invaders in the 5th century and were later damaged by earthquakes and looters, they remain an modestly interesting place to visit.  There are few of the Baths famous  floor mosaics still intact (restored) and they are amazingly detailed.   The Baths were slightly damaged during the 2009 earthquake that razed the historic town of L'Aquila in the mountains of central Italy.

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For Romans, bathing was a communal activity, as most homes lacked bathing facilities.  Bathing was fee-based, but it was a  modest expense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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