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The Baths
  The Thermal Baths of Diocletian
From www.santamariadegliangeliroma.it:baths, Basilica

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The Baths were constructed, generally speaking beginning with the last years of the first century after Christ, with courtly grandeur.

The emperors lavished their fortunes upon their citizens so that so that distant lands would know of the splendour of their reigns and of their munificence to the Roman people who relished the chance to congregate at he baths, not just for the holistic effectiveness of the water therapy, but also and especially to be an active part of a lively community which was used to the enjoyment of the best part of life in the public baths.

In fact this kind of building complex was comprised not only of thermal bathing systems but also and above all of gymnastic facilities in the Greek tradition. There one was able to enjoy lectures as well as gymnastic games in the gardens and exercise rooms. In the usually crowded meeting areas near the shaded passageways one was able to be assured of receiving the latest news followed by remarks thereof from a competent commentator.

There were also poets of all kinds of whom were those who would inform us, with some irony, of the indiscretions of Horace and Petronius. Poets who were searching for their literary fame in the baths, while actually distress the public with their nonsensical verses. Marziale would for instance, be feeling somewhat distressed, hoping for relief in the baths, only to hear further the ranting of the poets reading loudly to the seated or standing bathers.

The Baths which Maximian Valerio Augusto had in mind to dedicate to his noble colleague Diocletian were to be more magnificent.

He took inspiration from Caracalla, but his gift would be far more beautiful; classical in its architecture; his bathing systems would be more wisely appointed.

The area chosen by Maximian for the new baths was the wealthy August region number six, within the area of the Viminal Hill and the Municipal Building . It consisted of a high, level table of land where the sparse set of building could be brought inexpensively.

It was a rectangular area of about 1,128 feet by 1,083 feet in which, one might say, a typical imperial-bath complex was built with a heavily constructed external enclosure with many rotundas throughout its walls, which also included semi-circular rooms on its two shorter sides; as well as its longer ones: in one, opening from the (principal façade) main entrance, one could enter the large pool intended for swimming called the frigidarium, while its opposite exit opened to the immense garden called mostly the esedra, sometimes the theatre, the carved remains of which are still preserved generally in the semi-circular buildings at the beginning of Via Nazionale; this was built with the usual stepped-stone seats upon which the spectators were comfortably able to enjoy the shows, and gymnastic games, surrounded by a high wall filled with stores and adorned with great decorative effect with columns decked with flowers of the total square-footage at least one quarter was devoted to actual bathing facilities with its 3 characteristic settings of different temperatures: the calidarium or hot pool (set out in the garden under the blazing sun), the tepidarium or warmer water pool and finally the frigidarium or fresh water pool which (to maintain its coolness) was kept within the structure under cover.

In what was once its immense and sumptuous central room, shaped like a Greek cross, we now are able to enjoy the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels. Eight huge columns of African granite can still be seen in the transept of the Basilica.

The immense structure was begun in 298 after Christ and was completed somewhere between May of 305 or July of 306. It took a great number of slaves; all of those who belonged to the military and had refused to obey the order to honour the tradition gods were condemned to hard labour in the stone and sand quarries, as well as the production of bricks and the building of the Baths. A great part of this number were Christian martyrs.

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