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Baths of Caracalla (Rome, 3rd century)

Baths of Caracalla (Rome, 3rd century)

The magnificent bath complex of the Roman Emperor was built in the 3rd century A.D.

History

Keywords

Caracalla, thermae, bath, World Heritage, Rome, Római Birodalom, antiquity, culture, building, edifice, marble, mosaic floor, frigidarium, apodyterium, tepidarium, underfloor heating, imperial period, architecture, ruler, promenade, history

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Questions

  • Is it true that ancient Roman baths were important centers of social life?
  • Which room was the center of the bath?

Scenes

  • 90 cm (35.4 in)

  • 90 cm (35.4 in)

Narration

Among so many other things, the magnificence of ancient Roman culture and architecture is demonstrated by the baths, or thermae. Roman Emperors were eager to build more and more splendid and monumental thermae. The Baths of Caracalla were built in the south of Rome in the 3rd century A.D.

The baths were situated on an area of about 300 m by 300 m (984.3 ft by 984.3 ft). Service buildings were connected to the outer walls, there were shops and also a library. Inside the walls, there was a garden with promenades. The spa building was enormous; it measured more than 200 m (656.2 ft) in width and more than 100 m (382.1 ft) in length. The building consisted of several interconnected circular and polygonal halls covered by domes and groin vaults. The baths could hold up to 1,600 visitors at the same time.

There were rooms and pools of different temperatures, from cold to hot. Thermae offered varied services such as changing rooms, massage rooms, saunas and sports areas. The most important rooms in the baths were the frigidarium, with four cold pools; the open-air swimming pool (or natatio) and the caldarium, with seven warm pools. The walls were covered with marble and decorated with mosaics and statues.

Water was provided by an underground pipe system, through 18 cisterns. Rooms were usually heated with a hypocaust, an underground heating system. The floor was raised above the ground by pillars, and air heated by furnaces circulated in the space between them. Brick walls containing empty spaces inside or pipes could also be heated with this method. There were 50 furnaces to ensure continuous heating.

The bath complex of Caracalla is one of the best preserved Roman buildings of this kind. It was included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Cultural sites in 1980.

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