Monday, August 7, 2017

The Baths of Diocletian

I was not gentle in my review of the Baths of Caracalla.  But I did have to admit that they were enormous.  Well, if that is any measure of things the Baths of Diocletian should be better.  Similar in overall size - 32 acres - they were said to have a greater capacity....3000 bathers at a time if you can believe ancient sources.

Still, you could easily walk right past these baths and not notice them.  Not because there is nothing left, but because what survives is well camouflaged.

Here is a "floor plan" of the baths:

And here is an aerial view of the site today:

The curved area in the photo corresponds to the area marked "7" on the plan. This is the "excedra" of the baths, and is preserved in the outline of the modern day Piazza della Repubblica.  On one end of same we find this structure.  I think it corresponds to number "2" on the floor plan.  If so, the remains of the "laconium", a "dry sweat room" have become the entrance to......

The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri (Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs).  The main body of the church was built into the ruins of the "frigidarium" - or cold baths - of the Diocletian complex.  The architect was some guy named Michelangelo.  Inside you can't really tell you are in a Roman structure but from the outside you get a better sense of it.

One of the two circular towers that flank the excedra has also survived.  It is the Church of San Bernardo alle Terme:

A fair bit of the bath structures have also been preserved by incorporation into a branch of the Roman National Museum.  Several large halls were used during medieval and Renaissance times as grain and oil storage warehouses.  Later uses include a cinema and planetarium!  The museum has a lot of great stuff in it...frankly we did not allot enough time for it.  A few quick peeks:

This is the cloister of the Carthusian Charterhouse, also designed by Michelangelo.  Or sketched out on a scrap and handed off to one of his students.  It is now a fabulous sculpture garden.  No explanatory info, just lots and lots of sculptures, tombstones, broken columns.  Some from this location, some from elsewhere.  On the aerial view you can see this area clearly.

One of the former halls of the baths.  This was later used for storage.  The roof is now gone from this part.  Some kind of live performance had just ended, this explains the oddly attired individual.

This complex was so huge it apparently used the entire output of the Roman brick industry for the years it was under construction. When traveling with Roman Nerds you tend to get excited about otherwise mundane things.  Here is a display of bricks from the site.  With stamped on maker's marks.  And the stamps.

The museum had a lot of cool stuff.  Can it get much cooler than a fragment of the Severan Plan?  This was a large marble "map" that was located in the Roman Forum. It was the equivalent of a "You are Here" map.  Incredible detail.  This shows the location where the baths would later be built.  Nerd Paradise.

I had originally intended to include in this post some photos of Roman bathtubs that were on display in the museum, but as I am running a bit long lets save that for next time....

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