Whilst we were in bath this summer, we had several things on our “to see list” and the Roman Baths was right at the tippy top of my list. It was everything that I hoped for and more, I know that sounds incredibly cheesy but its true. For me it had everything I could ask for in one tidy package. History, art, amazing photo ops, easy to get to, and did I mention history?
The first night we arrived in Bath, we headed over to the Baths to check them out. It was a weekday evening, and turns out that is the least crowed time to go, although the Baths receive over one million visitors every year, in the evening we almost had the place to ourselves. In the summer the baths are open as late as 10pm, taking a torchlight tour of the baths is a magical way to experience history.
Lets take a dip into ancient history shall we? So if you are walking around Bath, England stop and look at the ground, because under the stones you are so carelessly standing on lies centuries of Roman history. To the Romans, Bath was know as Aquae Sulis. The Bath houses, and temple that the Romans constructed were in continual use for about 400 years, and attracted visitors from all over the world seeking the healing and relaxation of the sacred springs.
Walking to the Terrace I got my first glimpse of the Great Bath, I was in awe. I was staring history right in the face. I wandered around on the terrace (which was an early 19th century installment, as are the statues which represent Roman emperors and military leaders. ) and snapped pictures of everything. I really was thinking that this one big bath was really all there was to see, and I would have been cool with it, but turns out The Great Bath is only one tiny piece in the Roman bath ensemble.
Deep down at the heart of the Roman Bath lies the sacred Spring, early visitors to the Baths could not fathom how this geological phenomenon could occur so they believed the spring to be the work of the gods. Steamy water rises out of the ground in excess of 250,000 gallons every day and has been producing at this rate for over a thousand years.
In the Kings Bath is a statue of King Bladud, the supposed discoverer of the ancient hot spring, who after bathing in the waters was cured of leprosy, and founded the city of Bath in 800 B.C. Many different objects were thrown into the sacred Spring as offerings to the goddess Minerva. Thousands of Roman coins have been found, as well as curious sheets of lead and pewter inscribed with curses, asking the gods for revenge. So if you were at the Baths and your robe went missing you could write a curse and throw it into the sacred spring hoping for vindication.
There was a plethora of Roman artifacts on display in the museum. From gemstones that fell out of bathers rings, to coins, statues, and curses. One of my favorites were the surviving stones of the temple that was built beside the Baths. In the museum there was a picture projected over the remaining stones showing what the front of the temple might have looked like. The other artifact that caught my eye was also the shiniest, it was the gilt head of the goddess Minerva who was thought to have great healing powers.
Sadly you can’t bathe at the Baths anymore. When the Romans built the intricate Baths they used lead pipes to get the healing waters to the whole complex. I guess they hadn’t read the latest report about how toxic lead is. If you are looking for a luxurious way to experience the legendary healing waters you can go to the Thermae Spa. Another way to experience the effects of the water is simply to take a sip! (Don’t worry Mom I didn’t drink the lead infested water.) In the last thirty-ish they made a new bore hole in the spring to supply safe and clean water for drinking. We both grabbed a paper cup full of mineral rich water and tasted history. It was hot, minerally?, and slightly smelly, but the taste wasn’t half bad. I actually had two cups of it and even filled my water bottle up to take with me.
Bathing at the Baths
At the baths, the Roman bathers could enjoy steam rooms, exercise rooms, heated floors, a cold pool, a tepid pool, and a hot pool. Depending on your health wishes there would be a certain sequence of how you should bathe, to alleviate your particular illness. Major grooming took place in the baths, where your servant took care of pretty much everything. The gladiators would come to the baths and be groomed by some unlucky servant. There was a special scraper tool that would be used to scrap the oil, dirt and sweat off your smelly body. This wonderful concoction would then be bottled and sold too high society ladies for special face cream. I mean who wouldn’t want to slather gladiator goo all over their face, hey if it keeps you young right?
The Roman Baths are one of my favorite ancient sites that we have experienced on our journey thus far. I was simply astounded by the multitude of history that I was able to experience.
[author] [author_info]A big thanks to the Bath Tourism Board for making our stay in Bath so enriching![/author_info] [/author]