Emperors and kings
have always sought to build architectural monuments to their glory.
But unlike rulers before him who built cathedrals, state buildings
or palaces Emperor Severus decided that his legacy would be a
In 206 A.D. Emperor
Severus began construction on a thermal bath complex which was to
become the largest and most beautiful in Rome. Inaugurated ten years
later by his son Caracalla [pronounced Care--ah--calla]. The baths
remained functional for over 300 years.
Tourists in the
foreground give you some idea of the enormous scale of the baths.
complex was actually a multifunctional leisure center and also
housed gymnasiums, libraries, gardens, art galleries, restaurants
and even brothels. The Baths of Caracalla were known for their rich
interiors which featured marble seats, mosaic covered walls and
floors as well as countless fountains and statues.
The internal and
external walls were faced in polychrome marble. The rooms and
gardens were decorated with statues in marble and bronze.
The interiors were covered in
detailed tile mosaics
Dozens of statues were excavated
from the ruins and now populate museums around the world.
red-brick ruins of the Baths of Caracalla are situated southeast of
ancient Rome's center. This huge 27 acre complex (11 hectares)
housed bathing facilities with room for more than 1600 people. At a
time when Rome's crowded tenements had few sanitary facilities, the
more than 50 baths in Imperial Rome played an important part in the
lives of the Roman citizens.
ritual of bathing was a long process, starting with a hot bath in
Next up was the lukewarm
tepidarium, followed by the cold
Then followed a swim in an open air swimming pool.
The pool was heated
by a system referred to today as radiant heat. Beneath the complex
was a system of furnaces and tubes, along with elaborate
passageways, facilitating the movement of huge quantities of wood
and ash. All of the underground furnaces were run by slaves, of
course. Slaves were also brought by their masters to guard their
cloths while bathing. Before the invention of lockers clothes theft
was a common problem.