Bath

Aqua Sulis

 

 

 

 

 

The sacred waters of modern Bath, the Roman Aqua Sulis, have been known and used for many centuries. An extensive complex, now below modern street, level contains the Sacred Spring, the Roman Temple, and the Roman bath house, a Georgian Pump Room was built later above the Roman remains.

 

A Terrace overlooking the Roman Bath has statues of Romans, but which were constructed in the late 19th century by Victorians, when the baths were rediscovered and explored. Much of the Roman engineered plumbing and drainage system is still in situ, a magnificent achievement. The Great Bath, originally a vaulted hall, is filled with natural hot spa water.

 

Believed to be the work of the Gods, the Sacred Spring has supplied over 200,000 gallons of hot a day water for thousands of years. In celebration of which, during the latter first century CE, the Romans dedicated a classical Temple to the Goddess Sulis Minerva adjacent to the Bath House.

 

The Sacred Spring, like many water sources, was a place for making votive offerings, and has produced the largest amount of offerings found in Britain. The rich chalybeate spring's water were taken medicinally as well as being used for bathing. A facility used by Romans arriving from all parts of the Empire. Apart from this Temple, the only other classical Roman temple found in Britain is the temple of Claudius at Colchester.

 

During excavations in 1982 the pediment of the temple facade was found. The temple had stood on a raised dais in it's temenos, with a flight of stairs leading up to the temple with the carved frieze and pediment supported by four columns.

 

The carving shows a "Gorgon's head" on a shield of oak leaves, supported by Victories standing on globes.  A complicated carving, it also contains Tritons associated with Neptune, a "Greek" face helmet with dolphin design, an owl the emblem of Athens and the Goddess Athena, the Greek equivalent of Minerva, and a single star usually symbolic of Egypt's Sirius. The Gorgon was killed by the Greek Hero Perseus assisted by Athena, however the Gorgon was female and does not sport a moustache. To me the head looks more like a Celtic warrior than a female, and the "snakes" in the beard are merely war pendants. The Roman legions worshipped various Gods of war so it is possible that it represents Mars in a Celtic style.

 

From a stone found it is known that a haruspex, a priest who read omens like oracles using intestines, was  known to officiate at the temple.

 

The wonderful gilt bronze head of the Goddess Sulis Minerva, originally wearing a  Corinthian helmet, discovered in the 18th century whilst digging the foundations for the Georgian Pump Room, indicated this as a major Roman site. The head of the major statue of the temple is larger than life size, and the complete statue would have been the most awesome iconic object ever seen by local inhabitants.

 

The Temple remained  for worship until 391 AD when the Emperor Theodosius ordered the closure of pagan temples throughout the Empire. The Temple fell into a state of disrepair and eventually collapsed

   

The Terrace

 

The Great Bath

 

The Rich Red Staining of the Chalybeate

 

An Altar

 

The "Gorgon" Pediment

 

The Head of Sulis Minerva

 

 

 

Britain Tour