I saw the baths from a distance earlier in the year when I was on the Great Beauty tour in Rome. I went back to investigate when I stopped in Rome on the way back to Australia.
The Baths of Caracalla were the second largest Roman public baths built in the city. ( The Baths of Diocletian were the biggest) They were said to be built during the reign of Emperor Caracalla between AD 212 and 216. Some say it would have taken much longer to build something on this scale.
They could be correct..the site is huge. Amazingly much of it is still standing.
9000 workers were employed daily for approximately 5 years in order to create a huge platform of about 337 x 328 metres.
At the entrance is an impression of what the baths would have looked like.
The bath complex covered approximately 25 hectares. The bath building was 228 metres long, 116metres wide and 38.5 metres high. Thousands could use the baths daily. Those Romans could certainly build things on a grand scale.
The baths were free and open to the public. The Aqua Marcia aqueduct was built to bring water to the baths. The building was heated by a hypocaust, a system of burning coal and wood underneath the ground.
There were baths, swimming pools, dressing rooms, gyms, steam baths, shops and libraries in the complex. From the ancient main entrances, which led into the swimming pool, bathers could go into the dressing rooms and then the gyms.
After exercising, the visitors could have entered one of the laconia, for a steam bath, to prepare the body for the hot baths that were to follow in the caldarium. From there bathers would pass into the tepidarium and then to the largest and coolest indoor area, the frigidarium.
Come for a little walk through the ancient building. You can tell just how huge and impressive they must have been.
It is possible to see some of the mosaic floors and some of the decoration that wasn’t pilfered.
During the middle ages the baths were used as a quarry for precious materials: several figured capitals were reused in the Cathedral of Pisa and in the Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere. Works of art were removed and turned up in collections of wealthy families.
The baths were in use until the 6th century when the Ostrogoths destroyed the hydraulic installations. It must have been a magnificent sight when it was in full swing. The citizens of Rome were very lucky to have such a place.
The grounds around the baths are beautiful.
The Baths of Caracalla are a short walk from the Colusseum. On the day I was there very few people were wandering around the site, while the Colusseum was packed. The skies are very blue in my photos, but by the time I got back to the Colusseum it was raining heavily…hard to believe.
Take the time to walk a bit further and see this amazing place. I know you won’t be disappointed.
PS. I have added a hilarious cartoon to the previous post. Also read in The Australian, in the review section, and article by Deirdre Macken, about the ridiculous recent obsession about food.