Roman Baths – Bath - History and Facts | History Hit

Roman Baths – Bath

City of Bath, England, United Kingdom

The Roman Baths in Bath is an Ancient Roman thermal spa and one of the best preserved examples of its kind.

Peta Stamper

17 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Roman Baths – Bath

The world famous Roman Baths complex in Bath, UK, contains an incredible set of thermal spas and an impressive ancient Roman bathing house. First discovered in the 19th century, the Roman Baths are one of the best preserved ancient Roman sites in the UK and continue to be a major tourist attraction.

Roman Baths – Bath history

The Romans Baths were initially built as part of the town of Aqua Sulis, which was founded in 44 AD. Vast and lavish, the baths were able to accommodate far more people than just the residents of this town and were intended as visiting spot for Romans across the Empire. As with other contemporary bath complexes, in Bath the baths were a focal point for the town: a place for socialising and spirituality.

It is unsurprising that the Romans chose to build such magnificent baths in Bath. The area benefits from hot springs from the Mendip Hills which arrive at the Roman Baths at a temperature of 46 degrees Celsius and rise due to enormous pressure.

Prior to the Romans discovering these springs, the Celts dedicated this phenomenon to the Godess Sulis. The Romans equated Sulis with their own deity, Minerva, and kept the original name by calling the town Aqua Sulis – the waters of Sulis.

Roman Baths – Bath today

Today, the Roman Baths offer an incredibly comprehensive insight into the lives of the ancient Romans in the town and around Britain. While the site looks quite small from the outside, a visit can last several hours.

One of the first things one sees upon entering the site is a view from the terrace above the Great Bath. Overlooked by 19th century statues of various Roman icons, the terrace is the centrepiece of the site and a first glimpse into what lies ahead. Later on in the tour, visitors arrive at the Great Bath, where it is possible to stand right alongside the water. There are even costumed characters on site to create an authentic mood and entertain younger visitors.

The sacred spring is next along the tour: visible through a floor to ceiling window, visitors can view the original spring of hot water which was dedicated to Minerva due to its believed healing powers. The spring was also a place of worship where people threw coins, curses, wishes and prayers. Many of these messages can be seen at the Roman Baths ranging from humorous to sinister.

The Temple and the Temple Courtyard were similarly sacred spaces within the Baths. The Temple dates to the late 1st century, active until 391 AD when it was closed by Emperor Theodosius as Christianity became the Empire’s state religion. Walking through the Temple Courtyard, videos are shown to demonstrate what this once magnificent site would have looked like and how it was used. It is also here that you can see the gilded bronze head of Minerva.

Among other sites at the Roman Baths, there is a comprehensive museum dedicated to exploring the lives of the ancient Roman citizens of Bath and an ancient drain used as an overflow system. Around the Great Bath itself, explore the numerous saunas, swimming pools, heated baths and changing facilities at the site.

Audio tours, available in English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Dutch, Japanese and Mandarin and are included in the ticket price or visitors can join one of the hourly guided tours. The audio tour includes sections by the famous author Bill Bryson, and there are also children’s audio guides.

Getting to the Roman Baths – Bath

The Romans Baths are located within Bath’s historic centre. For those driving, Bath is along the A4 and A36 roads, a 40 minute drive from Bristol and 2 and a half hours via the M4 from London. If using public transport, the 94, 752, UCB, X79, X84, X85, X88 bus lines stop at Bath Abbey, a 2 minute walk from the baths. Bath Spa train station with links to London and the South West is a 6 minute walk away.

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