Baths of Caracalla (Terme di Caracalla)

The Baths of Caracalla or Antonine (named after the dynasty of the Antonines), constitute one of the greatest examples of the imperial baths of Rome, being still preserved for a large part of their structure and free of modern buildings (located between Porta Capena and Circus Maximum).

They were constructed by Emperor Caracalla on the Aventine, between 212 and 217, as shown by the brick stamps, in an area near the Circus Maximus. The baths were great, but the intended use of the mass populace of the nearby neighborhoods of Regio XII.

The baths were populated by men and women, old and children, artisans and soldiers, rich and slaves. The Roman baths were a place that united all, without any distinction.

Were used as a place to relax, chat, and take a bath.

The Baths of Caracalla were considered magnificent until the fifth century and in fact offered any kind of comfort to the 6000 - 8000 visitors who spent the day, including libraries, gyms and gardens.

The perfume that you could feel around the whole area of the spa was that of burning wood (just what you can feel in our homes while burning wood in a fireplace). In fact, the large thermal plant boilers were fueled by tons of timber: their fuel.

 

Description of the structure

Think about 1,500 people, was this capacity, they do sports activities in the gym which in turn opens onto four rooms, plant and sizes, all heated where the large southwest facing windows to get sun until sunset give a 360 degree view of a large garden adorned with fountains.

The access was through four gates, which led into a side room, or in one of the two circles to the left of the large pool, the natatio, divided from it by a portico with four columns. Here began the path to the bathroom, with sportive exercises of various kinds, which could take place both outdoors and indoors. The path could be performed on each of the sides, specularly identical.

From the entrance room, on the opposite side access to natatio, it came in one of two environments with a square base, maybe a apodyterium, the locker room. Continuing towards the side you came to one of the big two gyms, placed symmetrically along the short sides, with a central courtyard (50x20 meters) enclosed on three sides by a portico with columns in ancient yellow and vaulted roof. Beyond the portico of the gyms, on the inside, opened a semicircle divided by six columns, while the opposite side, the one toward fence not colonnade, gave access to five rooms, with the central apse. The large rooms that follow, on the south- west, had various shapes and sizes (rectangular, elliptical, square, apse), equipped with tanks. The rectangular room, in particular, is characterized by small oblique inputs, making it possible to prevent the loss of heat, it was probably the laconicum (turkish bath). From here you came to the caldarium, a large circular room (only partially preserved) of 34 meters in diameter, with a central large circular basin of hot water. The roof was a dome supported by eight piers, of which only four remain standing. Two rows of windows receiving sunlight from late morning until sunset. In addition to the central basin were six other basins along the perimeter, placed between the piers and the other.

The caldarium, as already mentioned, was the central axis, so it was only as a tepidarium, a basilica and natatio. The tepidarium was a smaller environment and temperate, with a circular base and cut the sides with two tanks. The Great Basilica middle measuring 58x24 meters had a shape of a cross, covered by three large vaults resting on eight pillars fronted by granite columns. On the short sides opened niches with elliptical tanks where it was supposed to take place on frigidarium: these granite basins were re-used for the fountains of Piazza Farnese. In the niche to the natatio are now four large figured capitals with divinity.

The bathroom ended in natatio, the outdoor pool, decorated with four huge monolithic granite columns: the only surviving column is from 1563, in Piazza Santa Trinita in Florence. The counter here presented groups of three by three overlapping niches on two floors, which contained statues.

Among fountains with their fountains that decorated the various rooms and the entire area of the garden, baths and swimming pools, the Baths of Caracalla were powered by a special branch of the Acqua Marcia, Aqua Antoniniana specially built to provide water to the structure.

Below the surface of the Baths of Caracalla extended on two floors of the basement where they were service rooms that allowed a practical management of the spa completely hidden from the eyes of visitors. In one of the underground at the portico of the north -west was installed a mithraeum, the largest found in Rome, which is accessed from the outside of the fence.

The outer consisted of a portico, of which very little remains are preserved. Before it a series of two-storey joint rooms supported one side of the embankment on which stood the complex. On both sides of the fence were placed symmetrically in two great exedras and each containing a hall with an apse, preceded by a colonnade, with the two smaller sides of different shapes: one in the shape of a basilica with an apse, and a central plan. On the bottom side, a semicircular crushed, equipped with bleachers, hid the huge tanks, placed in a double row of environments and with a maximum capacity of 80,000 liters. On either side of it there were two rooms with apses used as libraries, of which only retains the right one. An elevated walkway followed the fence on the inside and was probably portico. The space between the fence and the central body was covered with forest.

 

Works of art

Many works of art were found during the excavations that took place in different times, but especially in the sixteenth century: the three gigantic sculptures Farnese, the Bull, the Flora and Hercules, now in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, polychrome mosaic with twenty-eight figures of athletes, discovered in 1824, now in the Vatican Museums. It also busts of the Antonines, statues of Minerva, Venus, a vestal virgin, a Bacchante, and other minor works.

Besides the above mentioned tanks Piazza Farnese, other tanks retrieved from the complex are now in the courtyard of the Belvedere (Vatican Museums). Florence in the column of Justice comes from natatio of the Baths of Caracalla.

 

History

For their implementation was created in 212 a special branch of the Acqua Marcia, one of the aqueducts of ancient Rome, the Aqua Antoniniana, which exceeded the Appian Way Arch of Drusus, and for the realization of the esplanade was also a need to break the bank ' large area towards the Aventine and fill with ground is the opposite side. The complex was to be concluded towards the 216.

The outer work was instead the last two emperors of the dynasty, Elagabalus and Alexander Severus. Several restoration works were carried out by Aurelian, Diocletian and Theodoric. Polemio Silvio, in the fifth century, cited as one of the seven wonders of Rome, famous for the richness of their decoration and the works that once adorned. Following the cutting of the aqueducts by Vitige, king of the Goths, 537 from the hot springs ceased to function as such. Since then and in the following century the central part was used as xenodochio, while the surrounding area was used as a cemetery for burial. Abandoned and reused several times, even for residential purposes, the entire complex was then used as a farming area, vineyard, in particular, for use by owners of neighboring villas or Church entities and organizations. Abandonment in the sixth century was not, however, never the less exploitation of the ruins as a quarry for materials including the honor (marble and metal) and for entire structures (lintels, columns, etc..) To be reused for the construction of quality: the Duomo of Pisa and the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere contain, for example, architectural structures taken from the spa. To note also the long-term presence in the vicinity of limestone into lime for the processing of marble.

The baths were under excavation since the sixteenth century, when, under the pontificate of Pope Paul III made ​​famous statues. Many of these works, enter the Farnese collection, later took the road to Naples, hereditary and dynastic events. In 1800 surfaced the polychrome mosaics of the pavement, partly recovered, the subject of which was represented by athletes in gyms.

Even in the nineteenth century took place there numerous excavations. In 1901 and in 1912 were freed from the underground, work continued in 1938, when it was discovered the mitreo, the largest known example in Rome.

At the Baths of Caracalla were hosted the gymnastics competitions of the Olympic Games in Rome in 1960. Throughout the second half of the twentieth century the central part of the spa has been used for concerts and plays outdoors and in particular for the summer season dell'Opera di Roma. In 2000 the complex was released from the added amenities for the shows.

Due to the earthquake of April 6, 2009, the building suffered some damage.

 

And now what is left of this beautiful spa?

E ' of December 2012, the news that thanks to a project of restoration and enhancement conceived by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage of Rome, was able to return "to the gaze of humanity", what remains of the "core technology" of the spa in the basement. Two kilometers of tunnels where once there were deposits of timber, a water mill, with the heating furnaces and boilers, up to the water pipes.

 

As you arrive at the Baths of Caracalla?

One way would be to use urban public transport departing from Termini Station and taking line 714 Express and takes about 7 minutes to reach the spa complex.

 

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Translated via software

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Source:

Italian version of CosaVisitareARoma.it