We spent the last day of our anniversary trip at the Roman Baths and it was, by far, the highlight of our mini-vacation. The entrance to the museum sits behind Abbey Church. Since it was a weekend with nice weather, the place was packed. Luckily, we had purchased a combo ticket the day before at the Assembly Rooms which meant we got to bypass the large group of people waiting for entrance. I highly recommend this as it probably saved us a solid hour of standing in line.
I was in photo heaven with all the beautiful sculptures, architecture and vantage points of both the baths and the church. This particular site has a long history of being built, left for ruins and being built up again.
The Roman baths themselves are below current street level and I was surprised as we kept going further and further down into the museum. This site has been under excavation for over 300 years and the things they’ve found here are just astounding.
There are four main features to the Roman baths: the Sacred Spring, the Roman Temple, the Roman bath house and the museum which holds all the things they’ve found while excavating.
The baths are fed by a natural hot spring with a temperature of about 115 degrees. The Sarge commented that it looked like a scene out of Goonies; he pretty much nailed it.
This is a photo of pieces from the Temple pediment and shows Gorgon’s Head which is thought to represent a water god. This piece dates back to 60 or 70 AD.
There were also large plaques or gravestones honoring soldier’s deaths and heroic acts. For ancient Romans, this was the ultimate goal.
I know ancient Roman civilization was extremely advanced and much of our current society is based upon their way of life. Yet I was still shocked to see just how similar we really are. These are some grooming items – everything from combs and bobby pins to tweezers and metal q-tips. I’m not a history buff so perhaps this is just me, but I had never pictured Romans being so sophisticated (or vain?). They also had small notes or curses that people wrote on pieces of tin and threw into sacred waters so the gods would punish thieves or those who had offended a neighbor. It’s like a Roman version of calling someone out via social networking.
I caught myself thinking it was a little foolish to throw a note into water and expect something to come of it. Then we happened upon this wishing well of sorts and I chuckled. People were throwing wishing coins and someone had even tossed in an ATM card. I guess we’re not so different from those Romans after all!
Apparently, those clever Romans also figured out how to create heated flooring. Hot air would flow through these stacks of stone and heat the floor tiles. It’s 2013 – a time of electricity and internet – and I don’t even have heated flooring. Geniuses. Seriously.
If this has piqued your curiosity, I’d really recommend reading up on the history of the baths as it’s pretty incredible. Or better yet, go check them out in person. The museum is really informative as well as interesting – it’s well worth the admission price. Plus, at the end of the tour, you can sample some of the famed Bath water for yourself. It is said to have healing properties and contains 43 minerals while possessing an unusual taste. I would agree with that after sampling it for myself. Bath water… yep.
Check out these links for a more complete explanation of this historical site: