The Roman Baths are a well-preserved Roman sacred site in the English city of Bath. The site includes the remains of the Temple of Aquae Sulis, the Roman baths fed by the sacred hot spring, and a well-presented museum of artifacts found at the site.
History of the Roman Baths
The fundamental part of the Roman Baths is the sacred spring. Hot water at a temperature of 460°C rises here at the rate of 1,170,000 liters (240,000 gallons) every day and has been doing so for thousands of years. To the ancients, this remarkable phenomenon could only be the work of the gods.
The first shrine at the springs in Bath was built by the Celts, and dedicated to the goddess Sulis. After the Roman invasion, Sulis was identified with the Roman goddess Minerva, but the name Sulis continued to be used. This led to the town's ancient Roman name of Aquae Sulis ("waters of Sulis").
During the Roman occupation of Britain, increasingly grand temples and bathing complexes were built. The bath complex in Bath was founded in 75 AD. The healing powers of the goddess and the mineral-rich water from the spring attracted visitors from across the Roman Empire.
After the Roman withdrawal the baths fell into disrepair and were eventually lost due to silting up. When bathing again became fashionable in England, the site was reopened. The magnificent Georgian building now standing was erected at the end of the 18th century.
The ancient Roman Baths were rediscovered and excavated in the late 18th century. As well as being an important archaeological find, they have from that time to the present been one of the city's main attractions.
What to See at the Roman Baths
The Roman Baths are unsafe for bathing because the water has passed through the still-functioning lead pipes constructed by the Romans. However, the luxurious new Thermae Spa, which opened in September 2004, allows modern-day bathers to experience the waters for themselves.
The Roman Baths are below the street level of modern Bath and other Roman ruins stretch out beneath the city in all directions. The site consists of four main features: the Sacred Spring; the Roman Temple; the Roman bath house; and finds from Roman Bath.
The Sacred Spring, at the northwest corner of the baths, now feeds a pool known as the King's Bath, constructed in the 12th century. This is surrounded by a two-level Georgian building dating from the 18th century.
The Temple of Sulis Minerva at Bath is one of only two classical temples known from Roman Britain. The temple was built to house the cult statue of the goddess Sulis Minerva, the gilt-bronze head of this statue is on display in the museum.
The great ornamental pediment from the temple has been re-erected in the museum and carries an image of a bearded face carved in local Bath stone. This is the Gorgon’s head, a symbol of Minerva that also resembles other water gods like Oceanus and Neptune. Its sun-like appearance may represent the heat of the sacred spring.The Gorgon is encircled by surrounded by wreaths of leaves and surrounded by winged victories. The owl and the helmet at the bottom of the pediment symbolize Minerva's responsibility for wisdom and war.
The Roman Baths Museum contains many objects of interest, including thousands of objects thrown into the spring as offerings to the goddess. These offerings include:
Try a sip of the hot mineral spring water in the Pump Room's fountain - it tastes truly awful, but has long been believed to have healing powers!
Quick Facts on the Roman Baths
|Categories:||temples; baths; roman museums; megalithic monuments; hot springs|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||51.380972° N, 2.359491° W|
|Hours:||Mar-Jun, Sep, Oct: daily 9am-6pm|
Jul-Aug: daily 9am-10pm
Nov-Feb: daily 9:30am-5:30pm
Last admission 1 hour before closing.
|Lodging:||View hotels near the Roman Baths|
- Personal visit (October 2, 2005).
- The Official Roman Baths Museum Web Site
- The Pump Room & Roman Baths– Frommer's Attraction Review
- Roman Baths – Fodor's Online Travel Guide
- Bathing Beauty – Sydney Morning Herald, August 8, 2004.
- Photos of the Roman Baths - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of the Roman Baths
Below is a location map and aerial view of the Roman Baths. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.