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Baths of Caracalla

Baths of Caracalla (92)

The Baths of Caracalla were devised by Septimius Severus in order to gain the support of the Roman people. The complex was opened in 217 AD by Septimius’s son, Emperor Caracalla. 

These baths functioned for almost 300 years and there was room for as many as 1,600 bathers. It stopped operating in the 6th century, when the Visigoths destroyed its channelling system and the water stopped reaching the baths. 

You should know that the ancient Romans did not only use the baths for reasons of hygiene, but they were also a meeting and leisure spot. In the baths you could find a library, art gallery, meeting rooms, gymnasiums and gardens. All in all an impressive area which could accommodate up to 10,000 people at a time. 

These baths were designed at a colossal scale, above all in terms of the vaults and decoration, in which there was no lack of statues, paintings or mosaics.

Open from midday until early evening, the bathers came alone or accompanied by their servants. Bathing in the thermal waters was a full ritual: they began with a sauna, followed by a soaping, and then a hot bath, followed by a warm one and ending by submerging themselves in cold water. Members of the upper classes also had the right to be dried with a perfumed towel. 

It could be reached via the 8 doors that led from the apoditerium or changing room to, for example, the palestra, which would be the equivalent of a gymnasium, or maybe play trigon, a ball game, or go to the unctorium for a massage, or stroll through the gardens, spend some time reading or listen to a concert. They cultivated their bodies and minds with equal emphasis.

In any case, do not expect to find great ruins: there is little left standing of what was an important aspect of life in the Roman Empire. Moreover, the pillaging left very little of the magnificent original decoration. Nevertheless, these baths have been the inspiration of recent works such as Pennsylvania Station in New York or the National Assembly Building in Bangladesh. 

Every year the ruins are the backdrop for the summer season of the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma, creating a magnificent setting. 

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