The trip to The Protestant Cemetery took less time than I had envisaged and I’d booked the Appian Way walk so, as a friend had recommended seeing the Baths of Caracalla and they were just one Metro stop away, I decided to spend a couple of hours there, even though it started to drizzle with rain.
Aerial View of the Baths
Artist’s Impression of Caracalla
Now, Colchester may be full of Roman superlatives but, as you probably know, Rome knocks every other place that was part of the Roman Empire, into a cocked hat when it comes to remains. The Caracalla Baths are HUGE. The walls tower over you and the scale of everything was (and still is) vast.
These, the largest and best preserved thermal baths, were entirely built by Emperor Caracalla since AD212. Apparently 9,000 workers were employed daily for approximately five years to create a huge platform 337m x 328m. Water was brought to the bath house by aqueduct and the whole place was abandoned after the siege of Rome when the Goths destroyed the aqueduct and cut of the supply of water to the city.
Many of the decorations and works of art were removed from the site over the centuries. There is a particularly fine collection in the Vatican Museum since several popes were involved with excavations. Some mosaics remain roughly in situ but otherwise there are few artefacts remaining. There had been bronze statues in niches, fountains, marble floors and columns and painted frescoes.
Romans enjoyed board games and a tabula lusoria has been preserved here. Many such gaming boards were carved into floors and, as here, round the edges of pools. The game involved getting a walnut (or marble or knucklebone) into the holes.
The Natatio was a huge Olympic size swimming pool – the board game is alongside – is 50m x 22m and the walls are 20m high. It was not very deep and certainly not suitable for diving.
The Pool Today
Artist’s Impression of the Pool in its Heyday
The Gardens – Cypress Trees – at Caracalla
Following our visit to the Catacombs and walking along the Appian Way our Enjoy Rome Tour included a visit to the extensive remains of the Claudio Aqueduct. The aqueduct was one of several that supplied Roman Rome with its water.
The Claudio Aqueduct
The Parco degli Acquedotti is a public park about 8 kilometres from the city. It is part of the Appian Way Regional Park and is of approximately 15 ha. The park is named after the aqueducts that go through it. My guess is that it’s not easy to reach by public transport but I was glad to have seen it as I had no idea of its existence before.
Approaching the Aqueduct
Next up is a report of my visit to Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli where there is even more Roman water!