Any discussion about Roman public baths is incomplete without a mention of the Baths of Caracalla, the second largest of its kind. Located in the heart of Rome, this vast complex served as a leisure centre for public use where people could indulge in bathing, walking, exercising, and reading. Though the majority of the complex is now in ruins, an exploration is enough to let one know about the sheer brilliance and extravagance that was deployed in its construction.
Let us provide you with a list of some interesting facts about Baths of Caracalla to pique your curiosity further:
1. They are older than you think
The Baths of Caracalla is believed to have been built between 206 AD and 216 AD. While the construction of this historical masterpiece was commissioned and initiated by Septimius Severus, it was inaugurated during the reign of his son Caracalla. The ancient nature of this monument makes it a must-visit attraction for history as well as architecture aficionados.
2. Remained operational until 530s
If historians are to be believed, The Baths of Caracalla was operational for more than 3 centuries after its inauguration in 216 AD.
3. The baths could accommodate up to 1600 People
Spread across an area of 27 acres, The Baths of Caracalla had the capacity to accommodate up to a whopping 1600 people at a time. No wonder, this was the second largest bath complex in the entirety of Rome.
4. The addition of gardens, museum, massage rooms, and much more
The original complex of the Baths of Caracalla did not feature gardens, museum, shops, massage rooms, and music pavilions. These were later on added to the site by the successors of Caracalla, namely Heliogabalus and Severus Alexander.
5. Designated UNESCO World Heritage Site
Possibly the most well-preserved Roman bath complex in existence, The Baths of Caracalla was listed as The UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.
6. Tepidarium and Caldarium
The Baths of Caracalla featured three types of baths: cold, hot and warm. While the cold ones were known as the frigidarium, hot and warm ones were known as the caldarium and the tepidarium, respectively. The water in the hot and warm baths was heated by large ovens in the basement which were operated by slaves.
7. Explore Vatican Museums for the Statues and Mosaics
Numerous statues and mosaics which were originally installed in the bath complex have been relocated to the Vatican Museums. One of the most renowned pieces among which is the ‘Belvedere Torso’.
8. Removal of the valuable objects in the 1500s
All the valuable objects from the Baths of Caracalla were removed in the 1500s after the right to do so was granted by the Farnese family. These objects included two Egyptian grey granite bathtubs that are placed on the Piazza Farnese in Rome.
9. Two exercise courtyards in the complex
In addition to large bathtubs, the complex consists of two large courtyards that were used as exercise spaces. Black and white mosaic patterns adorned these courtyards.
10. The largest gathering space for Mithra devotees
There is a mithraeum within the Baths of Caracella which is believed to be the largest known space where the followers of the Persian god Mithra gathered for worship in the 2nd and 3rd Centuries AD. According to the experts, the mithraeum was created soon after the construction of the complex was completed in 216 AD. Ettore Ghislanzoni discovered the mithraeum in 1912.
11. Inspiration for many architectural masterpieces
Many architects across Europe drew inspiration from the architectural brilliance of the Baths of Caracalla. Several elements found in the designs of the bath complex can be seen in the structures of Baths of Diocletian and Basilica of Maxentius.
Later on, in the 19th and 20 Centuries, the designs inspired the constructions of various famous modern structures such as Pennsylvania Station in New York and St George’s Hall in Liverpool.
12. Ballet and opera venue
At the present time, in addition to being a popular tourist site, the bath complex serves as the venue for open-air performances of opera and ballet. One may catch works like Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida and Georges Bizet’s Carmen involving large casts here.