Mosaic, Baths of Caracalla

Mosaic, Baths of Caracalla

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Emperor Caracalla and His Baths

In Ankara, the capital of Turkey, are the ruins of a Roman bath built by Emperor Caracalla and dedicated to Asclepios, the god of healing.

Ankara, then known as Ancyra, was the capital city of Galatia, an ancient area in Asia Minor principally known today for its association with the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians (c. 48-52) in the New Testament. Galatia had been conquered by Caesar Augustus and annexed to Rome in 25 BC. Two bronze tablets inscribed with Augustus’ The Deeds have been found in the ruins of his temple in Ankara.

CLICK HERE for article on the deeds of Augustus

In order to maintain the Roman Peace, the Pax Romana, Augustus settled soldiers and their families in all conquered cities and regions. Over time thousands of Romans were living in the Galatian area and they wanted the hallmark of their culture—a Roman Bath. In 212 Emperor Caracalla built them their bath.

Ruins of Caracalla’s Bath in Ankara

In that same year Caracalla (aka Antononius) had issued a decree, the Constitutio Antoniana, declaring that all free men in the entire Empire were Roman citizens and all free women had the same rights as Roman women. This declaration vastly increased the number of people who would pay taxes to Rome, took away ambivalent identity (“Am I a Gaul or a Roman?”) and gave Caracalla much more money to build baths.

The Bath in Ancyra, a symbol of Rome and of the Galatians’ new Roman citizenship, was large. The main hall was 262’ wide and 427’ long. Off the main hall were auxiliary buildings. In the buildings were hot pools, warm pools, a swimming pool, recreation facilities and rooms for cultural events. The ancient Turks loved this bath so much that the modern-day Turkish people with their famous Turkish baths are the only people in the world who have for thousands of years maintained a direct historical link to the fabled Roman Baths.

A modern Hammam, Turkish bath

In 212 Caracalla, also, began to build in Rome the most famous of all the Baths, the Baths of Caracalla. Covering over 33 acres, it was the second largest Roman Imperial Bath, exceeded in size only by the Baths of Diocletian dedicated 100 years later in 306. Caracalla built his Baths, called in Latin thermae (“warm springs”), near Aventine Hill close to the Via Appia, the main road of entry into Rome, where every visitor could see and be impressed with his massive, multi-billion sesterces homage to the art of bathing.

The water to supply his Baths was diverted from the largest of Rome’s eleven aqueducts, the Aqua Marcia that carried into Rome the cool and sweet waters of the Aniene River 57 miles away.

The Aqua Marcia—Most of Rome’s ancient aqueducts are still standing

The water for the Baths was stored on the premises in a double row of 64 cisterns behind the seats of a stadium near one of the two rectangular buildings (palaestrae) where athletes practiced and competed in sporting events. Special athletic events were staged in the Bath’s stadium. It had only one bank of tiered seats. The rest of the stadium was left open so people who were exercising or strolling could see the contests.

13,000 recently captured Scottish slaves had leveled the land for the Bath. 21 million bricks faced the outside of the buildings. 600 marble workers from Greece were employed to carve the 6,400 square yards of marble and granite columns, facings, friezes, entablatures and statuary that adorned the inside rooms and courtyards.

The Farnese Bull – Statuary from Baths of Caracalla—Archaeological Museum, Naples, Italy

Caracalla spared no expense for the stones and marbles inside his Bath. He imported grey granite from Egypt, yellow marble from Numidia, a green-veined marble from the island of Carystus in the Mediterranean, green porphyry from Sparta and the prized purple porphyry from a quarry in Egypt. Purple was the color of royalty and the royal Emperor Constantine the Great’s casket was made of this purple porphyry. The porphyry from that one quarry in Egypt was very expensive and rare. Its fame was so great that even to this day, the road from that quarry to an ancient city on the Nile is called The Porphyry Road (Via Porphyrites).

Purple porphyry sarcophagus of Constantina (c. 340), daughter of Constantine the Great

Bathing was usually done in the afternoon because the Roman citizen’s workday was typically over at midday. The beating of a great copper gong announced the opening of all the Baths. The Roman orator and philosopher Cicero said the sound of that gong was for him “sweeter than the voices of all the philosophers in Athens.”

The central building of the Baths of Caracalla was a gigantic 253,000 square feet. The Baths could hold 1,600 bathers not counting the hundreds of other people who came just for social or business reasons. Sometimes the baths were free, but usually there was a small fee paid at one of the four entrances. The main entrance was on the northeast where the cloak and changing rooms (apodyterium) were. To show they were socially prominent, patrician men and women often brought a large contingent of slaves with them.

Slaves carried all the paraphernalia needed for an afternoon at the Baths: linen towels, exercise and bathing clothes, boxes for jewelry and other sundry items, dishes for scooping water, a toilet kit containing flasks of perfumed oils (top left), olive oil as soap (the very poor used lentil flour as soap) and a curved tool made of metal or bone called a “strigil” used for scraping off dirt (bottom left), water and oil.

Caracalla’s Bath in Rome has impacted the architecture of many buildings. Emperor Diocletian (reigned from 284 to 305) imitated his frigidarium, the central part of the Bath. In the early 1900’s the main halls of New York City’s Penn Station (demolished in 1963) and the Chicago Union Station were designed directly from the frigidarium area in Caracalla’s Bath.

The Design of Caracalla’s Frigidarium area

Penn Station was opened on September 8, 1910 to the wonder of the entire word. It was torn down and rebuilt between 1963 and 1966. No one was or is amazed at the current Penn Station. Many mourn the loss of that magnificent, now gone, original, Caracallian-like architectural masterpiece.

Penn Station as it looked before it was torn down

As Vincent Scully (1920-2017), art historian from Yale, once said, “Through Pennsylvania Station one entered the city like a god. Perhaps it was really too much. One scuttles in now like a rat.”—Article by Sandra Sweeny Silver

Mosaic, Baths of Caracalla - History

Images & Art : Rome
Photos Design and Art

2. Images of Roman Emperors Photos, coins, busts, etc. from around the net. Browsable Directory of Images. Bible History Online.

ACQUA ALEXANDRIANA Campagna 222-235 The Acqua Alexandriana, set in the Campagna, has one high arch. This is one of eleven great aqueducts which supplied the many hundreds of millions of gallons of water consumed daily in Rome.

ANATOMY OF A ROMAN ARCH from "Empires Ascendant" Time frame 400 BC - AD 200 Time Life Books To support the tremendous weight of the arches, it was necessary to provide a way of transmitting the force to massive piers to the foundation of the arch. The Romans achieved this feat through the use of the Keystone block. The force was directed down onto the top of the keystone. Because of its shape the force was translated to the voussoir blocks of the arch which in turn translated the force through the impost to the piers. During construction, the voussoir's were supported by a temporary wooden frame until the keystone was inserted.

APPIAN WAY Rome 312 B.C. Original stone work on the famous Appian Way.

AQUEDUCT Segovia Early 1st to early 2nd century The double-arched aqueduct in Segovia is constructed of large shaped stones. Notice the way the arch is laid.

ARCADE OF THE TEMPLE OF JUPITER ANXUR Terracina c. 80 B.C. The arch is the central revolutionary concept of Roman architecture. With its development the Romans bypass the earlier building concept of verticals and horizontals, support and load. The arch makes possible a new idea of space. It becomes the basis of Roman monumentality. Above these powerful supporting arches is a terrace which held the Temple of Jupiter Anxur. The arches are constructed of opus incertum, concrete faced with irregular-shaped stones.

ARCH OF CONSTANTINE Rome 315 The Arch of Constantine, like several arches before it, has three passageways. It is unusually large and highly decorated. Much of the sculpture was taken from earlier monuments.

ARCH OF HADRIAN Athens Shortly after 138 This unusual commemorative arch, built shortly after the death of Hadrian, combines Roman elements on the bottom with Greek elements on the top. Missing are the original sculptures which helped tie the arch together.

ARCH OF TITUS Forum Romanum Rome 81 Roman soldiers marched through the triumphal archway and entered the forum on their way back from war. This ritual procession cleansed them of the blood of the enemy. Beautifully proportioned to minimize its weight, the Arch of Titus has many Greek details. The outside columns are the earliest examples of the Composite order.

ARCH OF TITUS Forum Romanum Rome l The ceiling of the arch is coffered and the famous reliefs of the victory in Jerusalem line the inside of the passages.

ARCH OF TITUS Forum Romanum Rome 81 At the eastern end of the forum is the Arch of Titus, built to commemorate the capture of Jerusalem. It is the oldest extant triumphal archway in Rome with a single passage. To the right in the distance one can see a potion of the walls of the Coliseum.

ARCHES ON THE VIA NOVA Palatine Hill Rome 2nd century Arches in the Via Nova supported a street above. Notice how the thin bricks are put into the cement at an angle. This adds strength to the arch.

AURELIAN WALL Rome c. 270 A defensive brick wall built around 270 A.D.

BASE OF A COLUMN Forum Romanum Rome 285-305 A column base which supported the statue of the Tetrarchy. The relief represents the sacrifice on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Diocletian's rise to power.

BASILICA Trier c. 310 The basilica at Trier, the capital of Constantius in northern Gaul, is a plain rectangular hall, approximately 95 by 190 feet, with a sizable projecting semicircular apse, which held the emperor's throne. A narthex was in the front of the building and porticoed courtyards were on the sides. Two rows of windows bring in light from the sides and around the apse. The apse is emphasized by all aspects of the design. The exterior walls, once faced with stucco, are broken up by tall sup porting Greek columns which end in arches. Originally a wooden gallery ran along the building under each row of windows, breaking up the vertical thrust of the arches.

BASILICA OF CONSTANTINE Forum Romanum Rome 312-327 The Roman barrel vault reaches its highest expression in the Basilica of Constantine. Begun by Maxentius in 306-310, the building was completed by Constantine in 312-337. Three huge vaults on the north side remain. Each is pierced by six large windows which bring light into the building (though the center bay was closed off by Constantine and made into an apse with a huge statue of himself). The original entrance was from the arcade on the right. An apse was at the far end. A 1 20 foot groined vault supported by the aisle vaults covered the central nave. Constantine moved the entrance and shifted the axis to the center of the south wall, opposite his statue. A simple rectangular structure given monumentality through its vaulting and supporting piers, the basilica later became a model for Christian architecture. For the Romans it was a center of justice and civic affairs.

BATHS Baia Early 1st century This is a portion of the baths at Baia, a famous resort near Naples.

BATHS IN THE FORUM Ostia 2nd century In the baths at Ostia an entire wall is used for windows. The Romans invented an inexpensive way to manufacture glass.

BATHS IN THE FORUM Ostia 2nd century This view of the baths at Ostia shows the black and white mosaic floor. The color and figure pattern is typical of the second century.

BATHS OF CARACALLA Rome 212-216 Massive cement and brick structures support a roof with a semicircular intersecting vault. The frigidarium is in this area.

BATHS OF NEPTUNE Ostia c. 120 The black and white mosaic dominates through the first and second centuries. In the second century compositions are freer and more lively, such as this marine mosaic.

BRONZE COUCH From a villa at Boscoreale Staatliche Museen, Berlin Most Roman couches have turned legs. This bronze example from Boscoreale is typical of the late Republican and early Imperial couch. A simple carved headboard ends in a swan's head a rosette medallion is at the lower end. The legs have a variety of turnings and are supported by stretchers.

BRONZE DOORS Temple of Romulus Forum Romanum Rome Early 4th century The bronze doors are original. They are framed by two columns and a decorated lintel. Notice the partial columns sitting on pedestals. This is typical throughout Roman architecture.

BRONZE TABLE From the House of Julia Flex Pompeii National Museum Naples The round-top table with three animal legs is a form the Romans adopted from the Greeks. This elaborate example in bronze has clawed feet and animal legs which are connected with fancy scroll braces. Winged sphinxes support the decorated top.

CANOPUS Hadrian's Villa Tivoli After 130 Hadrian's immense country house was laid out over seven square miles. This small part of the Canopus, the long water basin in the public section of the villa, indicates the Greek sources for the architecture. Hadrian had a great affinity for Greek art and he had copies made of Greek statues to line the canal.

CEILING RELIEF Temple of Bel Palmyra 32 A high relief pattern on a ceiling.

CELLA FRIEZE Temple of Apollo Sosianus Rome c. 20 B.C. An elaborately carved scene and leaf pattern from the interior cella wall.

COFFERED DOME Pantheon Rome c. 118-128 The coffered dome rises to a twenty-seven foot circular opening called the oculus. It is the one light source for the interior. In five steps, and recessed four times, the coffering diminishes in size. This lightens the load on the dome and enhances its appearance of height. Originally the coffers were decorated, possibly with gold stars against a blue background.

COLOSSEUM Rome 70-82 The Coliseum is an elliptical building made to hold 50,000 spectators for sporting and theatrical events. It is four stories high with rings of arcades on the first three levels. The arches have attached three-quarter columns, Doric on the first level, Ionic on the second, and Corinthian on the third. The top story has Corinthian pilasters. From here a large awning, the vlarium, could be stretched across the entire amphitheatre. The Coliseum was constructed under three Flavian em perors, Vespasian, Titus, and Dominitan. More than any other single building, its construction details, engineering, and sense of power and authority speak to the Roman culture.

COLOSSEUM FACADE Rome 70-82 A detail of the facade. Originally statues stood in the arches on the second and third stories. People entered through the ground floor arches according to where they sat.

COLOSSEUM SUBSTRUCTURE Rome 70-82 The main corridor of the substructure.

COMPOSITE COLUMN Horrea Epagathiana Ostia c. 145-150 A composite capital in stucco and brick on a warehouse in Ostia.

COUCH Courtship of Venus and Mars House of Marcus Lucretius Fronto Pompeii c. 30 Venus sits on a covered klismos with curved legs, her feet on a footstool. The high couch dominates the picture. Mattress and pillow are covered. The pillow is supported by a scrolled headpiece.

COUCH AND FOOTSTOOL From a villa at Boscoreale Metropolitan Museum of Art New York This more elaborate couch is made of bone and glass inlay. Notice the matching footstool.

COVERED COUCH Detail, The Aldobrandini Wedding From a villa in Rome Vatican Library, Rome The bride and Venus sit on this high bed which requires a footstool. It has a mattress and tasseled coverlet.

Detail, CIRCULAR RELIEF Arch of Constantine Rome 315 The tondi or circular reliefs are from the time of Hadrian. This relief depicts a sacrifice to Diana.

Detail, LINTEL ARCH Colosseum Substructure Rome 70-82 Horizontal lintel arches supported the heavy amphitheatre columns which were underground. These arches were made with wedge-shaped blocks or voussoirs.

Detail, RELIEFS Trajan's Column Rome 114 The continuous three and a half foot spiral band of reliefs is more than 600 feet long. Carved on it are over 2,500 figures.

DOMUS AUGUSTANA Palatine, Rome 81-92 The emperors built great palaces in the center of Rome. By the time of Domitian the sumptuous public and more modest private rooms were separated. These are the remains of the courtyard of the private quarters on the lower level, opening on to a large water basin.

DOMUS AUGUSTANA Palatine, Rome 81-96 Four-story arches on the side of Domitian's private garden court. A passage behind its arches leads to the private quarters.

EMPEROR AUGUSTUS From Prima Porta Early 1st century Vatican Museum, Rome Based on a classical sculpture of Polykleitos, Augustus is in military dress and represented in an idealized manner, both godlike and human. The idealized portrait came into fashion in the time of Augustus and lasted many years. This statue was copied from a bronze original and was gilded and painted.

EQUESTRIAN STATUE OF EMPEROR MARCUS AURELIUS Piazza del Campidoglio Rome c. 104 In this great equestrian statue, Marcus Aurelius is portrayed as an emperor and a military leader more concerned about peace than war.

FLOOR MOSAIC Corinth Museum 1st or 2nd century Mosaics with geometric patterns are typical in the first and second centuries.

FLOOR MOSAIC Baths of Caracalla 212-217 This interesting floor mosaic of the early third century is from the Baths of Caracalla.

FOLDING STOOL Detail, Centaur with Apollo and Aesculapius From a wall painting in Pompeii Museo Nazionale, Naples This folding stool, probably in bronze, has thin, curving, unadorned legs. It is based on a Hellenistic model.

FOLDING STOOL Detail, wall painting from Herculaneum Museo Nazionale, Naples Another variation of a folding stool with double cushions.

FORUM ROMANUM From the west Rome The forum is the meeting place for Romans, the center of political, religious, business, and social life. Built up over many years on an ancient site, the Forum Romanum is the oldest and most important forum. It is laid out on an axial plan and everything is organized within defined boundaries. At its peak during the days of the Republic and the Empire, the forum held the main public buildings, temples, basilicas, shops, colonnades, triumphal arches, pillars and statues.

FRIEZE Temple of Minerva Forum of Nerva Rome c. 100 Roman architectural emphasis is structural. Decorative motifs are largely influenced by the Greeks, but the Romans developed some of their own decorative forms. This frieze depicts stories from the life of Minerva.

FRIEZE AND ORNAMENTAL PATTERN Ara Pacis Augustae Rome 9 B.C. The processional frieze and ornamental pattern on the southern side of the Ara Pacis Augustae, the Altar of Peace.

FRIGIDARIUM Baths of Caracalla Rome 212-216 The thermae or baths were a social center of Roman life. Used daily as a place to bathe and refresh the body, they also contained swimming pools, parks, stadiums for sports, libraries, lecture rooms, and occasionally small theatres. This is part of the frigidarium, the largest space in the bath and probably unroofed. It is the room for cooling off and swimming. The two other main areas were the calidarium, the hot room, and the tepidarium, the warm room. The baths of Caracalla could accommodate 3,000 bathers.

Gaius Julius Lacer Roman bridge Alcántara, Spain 106 Built of square hewn granite stones, this handsome bridge uses six arches to cross the river. The two central arches are 157 feet high and almost 100 feet across. A triumphal arch is over the central pillar.

Giovanni Paolo Panini PANTHEON c. 1750 National Gallery of Art, Washington This eighteenth century painting captures the full magnificence of the Pantheon's interior space, the first such open interior in architectural history. The sun lights up the space and as it travels across the sky casts an intense glow on the walls. Notice how the building's simple design of circle within a square is reflected in the same pattern on the floor.

GRIMINI ALTAR Museo Archeologico Venice 1st century B.C. Known as the Grimini Altar, mythological figures decorate the four sides and the borders are ornamented with abstract designs. A Greek artist probably created these scenes of satyrs and maenads.

GROTTO OF LOVE Ostia 4th century This is another residence known as the Grotto of Love.

Hadrian TEMPLE OF VENUS AND ROME Forum Romanum Rome 123-135 Designed by Hadrian, the barrel-vaulted Temple of Venus and Rome is one of the most significant architectural achievements of the age. It was an immense temple with a platform 540 by 340 feet. Workmen from Asia Minor did most of the construction and their decorative contribution influenced subsequent buildings. This is one of the two back-to-back cellas. It was extensively restored by Maxentius in 307-312, when it was given rich flooring and columns.

HOUSE OF CUPID AND PSYCHE Ostia c. 300 A statue of Amour and Psyche in a cubiculum or bedroom with a rich beautiful marble pattern. The house triclinium (dining room) was centrally heated.

HOUSE OF THE FISH Ostia 4th century Located at the mouth of the Tiber, Ostia was the port of Rome and an important commercial center. In the third century, its economy failed and it became a resort for the well-to-do. These are remains from the House of the Fish. The marble wall facing is gone. Notice the checkerboard floor pattern.

IMPERIAL BATHS Trier c. 300 Natural light from windows is a primary element in Roman architecture. This is especially so of the buildings which house the baths, where sunlight is that much more desirable. These arched windows almost filling up the wall are from the southern apse of the Imperial Baths at Trier.

Interior, COLOSSEUM Rome 70-82 In the center is the substructure beneath the arena floor. Almost forty feet deep, it contained a system of corridors for slaves, caged animals, and machinery for performances. It also held the plumbing to flood the arena for water events. The tiers of seats were strictly divided by social strata. The emperor and his family and court sat in the first tier patricians and gentry were in the second tier ladies were in the third tier and common people sat on the top. Barrel vaults were the main supports of the heavy tiers.

LAOCOON by Hagesandro, Polydoros and Athanodoros c. 80 Vatican Museum, Rome The Laocoon is one of the most well-known works of Roman art. It presents Laocoon, the priest of Apollo, and his two sons being overcome by two large snakes. The sculpture is a work of brilliant and frightening energy.

MAISON CARRÉE Nîmes c. 19 B.C. The Maison Carrée is the best-preserved Roman temple. It has a high podium and six Corinthian columns support the entablature. Also typical is the height of the porch, in this case: 16 steps high.

MARBLE TABLE From a house in Pompeii 1st century The Roman table, unlike the Greek, is used as a permanent piece of furniture. This traditional marble table or cartibulum stands in the atrium of a house in Pompeii. The thick marble top is precisely shaped as a rectangle and supported by four legs. The tapered legs are elegantly carved with volutes at the top. Three flutes run down the side to a lion's paw which rests on a high base. The grain of the marble is employed throughout for its decorative value.

MARBLE TABLE SUPPORT From the House of Cornelius Rufus Pompeii The rectangular table with highly decorated slabs at each end is an original Roman table form. Typical are the two winged monsters (lions with rams' horns) carved in the table support. The uncovered table was also found in an atrium in Pompeii.

MARITIME THEATRE Hadrian's Villa Tivoli 118-125 The Maritime Theatre (Teatro Marittimo) was Hadrian's circular island retreat. It was surrounded by a canal and a colonnaded portico and a high wall screened it off from the rest of the villa. The land was connected to the villa by two drawbridges. In the Theatre full scale miltary battles could be faught as a form of entertainment.

MARIUS GRATIDUS LIBANUS AND HIS WIFE End of 1st century B.C. Vatican Museum, Rome Husband and wife are united in this funerary monument.

MARKET OF TRAJAN Rome c. 100-112 The market of Trajan (Mercatus Traiani) was a shopping center integrated into the flow of city life. The building had six levels, with entrances from the street below and from roadways above. Built onto a hill, the first two stories form a semicircle right next to the Forum of Trajan. Up to the nineteenth century, the market was a unique commercial space.

MARKET OF TRAJAN Rome c. 100-112 On the third level is the Via Biberatica which had shops on both sides of the street.

MARKET SPACE Market of Trajan Rome c. 100-112 The largest market space is the aula coperta on the Via Biberatica. Two stories high and cross vaulted, it is lit by windows and large openings above. Throughout the market there were many windows to light the shops, stairways, and arcades.

MAUSOLEUM OF AUGUSTUS Rome c. 28 The monumental Mausoleum of Augustus was built by the emperor for himself and his family. It is 220 feet in diameter and over 150 feet high. A cylinder rose through the center, with the ashes of the emperor at the bottom and the emperor's statue standing out on top. Most of the upper part is now missing.

MAUSOLEUM OF HADRIAN Rome c. 135 The culmination of the development of the tumulus, Hadrian's grand mausoleum followed the model of the tomb of Caecilia Metella. In its day it was elaborately ornamented. Later it was altered and changed into the Castle of S. Angelo.

MILVIAN BRIDGE Rome 109 B.C. The Milvian Bridge (Pons Mulvius) was the crossing for two of the most important roads in Rome. Still used today, its arches are set over massive piers.

NICHE Pantheon Rome c. 118-128 Cut into the twenty foot thick walls and screened with columns are semicircular and rectangular niches. The niches held statues of the heavenly gods. This is the main niche at the end of the central axis, the only niche to stand out.

NORTHERN AISLE Basilica of Constantine Forum Romanum Rome 312-327 The northern aisle with coffering in two vaults. Marble originally covered the walls.

OPUS RETICULATUM From Hadrian's Villa Tivoli Early 2nd century The Romans discovered concrete and with this material developed entirely new ways of building. Concrete is sturdy, inexpensive, and quick and easy to use. Invariably the concrete is faced. In this example it is faced with opus reticulatum. Stones are pounded into the cement and at the joints they run in diagonal lines forming a diamond-shaped net.

OPUS TESTACEUM Forum Romanum Rome In opus testaceum the cement is faced with triangular bricks, about one and one-half inches thick. There are other much used facings.

ORNAMENTATION Provenance unknown 4th century (?) Cornice ornamentation.

PALAESTRA Baths of Caracalla Rome 212-216 The palaestra is a large circular room for wrestling and other gymnastic activities.

PANTHEON Rome c. 118-128 The Pantheon is one of the most important buildings in architectural history. Built by Hadrian, the greatness of this temple to the gods is difficult to appreciate from the exterior. A large Corinthian portico, 110 feet wide by 60 feet deep, is attached to a circular drum, with a small section of a dome appearing above. In fact the mass of the building was even more concealed in its original state, when a spacious colonnaded forecourt jutted out into the street.

PANTHEON Rome c. 118-128 Its interior space is awesome. Proportioned like a circle within a square, a hemispherical dome sits on a cylindrical drum. The diameter of the dome is 141 feet and it rises 141 feet from the floor to the top of the ceiling.

PERISTYLE Palace of Diocletian Split c. 300 The peristyle is a ceremonial courtyard in front of the main residential entrance. The arches lead directly to the entrance-way. This is in the form of a triumphal arch capped with a temple pediment. The entire design enhances the lofty and solemn powers of the imperial throne.

PONT DU GARD Nîmes Late 1st century B.C. The familiar aqueduct provided water throughout the Empire. The three-tiered Pont du Gard transported water in its upper channel or specus for more than twenty-five miles. In building the 160-foot high aqueduct, no mortar was used in the masonry.

PORTA AUREA North gate of the palace of Diocletian Split c. 300 Diocletian's palace at Split looks like a fortress on the outside. The so-called golden gateway on the north end of the palace is the entrance for official visitors. Its facade was richly decorated. Statues originally stood in the niches. Also missing are the columns between the arches.

PORTA DEI BORSARI Verona Probably third quarter of the 1st century This simple city gate with two entrances is decorated in an elaborate Baroque manner. The levels are contrasted and the details alternate throughout. Originally the gate had projecting towers at each end.

PORTA NIGRA Trier Probably early 4th century Part of the city wall, the arches of the imposing gateway were usually closed by portcullises. The corner tower, over ninety-five feet high, overlooks the countryside. Tuscan orders line the walls.

PORTA SAN SEBASTIANO Rome Porta San Sebastiano was built into the Aurelian walls in Rome. Notice the large keystone in the arch.

PORTRAIT OF A ROMAN PATRICIAN First half of 1st century BC. Museo Torlonia, Rome Realism is the hallmark of Roman sculpture though it goes through many phases. This aging and dignified patrician bears the lines of a long hard life.

RELIEF Forum Romanum Rome Decorative relief.

SARCOPHAGUS 4th century Louvre, Paris A late Roman sarcophagus with the Good Shepherd, lions' heads, and feet. The waving line pattern is fairly common.

SARCOPHAGUS OF CORNELIUS SCIPIO BARBATUS From the sepulcher of the Scipio family Appian Way Early 3rd century B.C. Vatican Museum, Rome A sarcophagus ornamented with triglyphs and rosettes and other carvings.

SCAENAE FRONS Theatre at Taormina Sicily The scaenae frons, one of the best preserved, was richly decorated with groups of four columns on a high podium which separate the regia or central royal door from the hospitalia or side doors. Behind the columns are niches for statues.

SERAPEUM Hadrian's Villa Tivoli 118-134 At the far end of the Canopus is the Serapeum, a semicircular half dome. Water ran through a long central corridor, curved in front of dining couches under the dome, then passed into the main canal. From the time of the late Republic, water is a regular part of Roman domestic architecture.

SERVIAN WALL Rome 390 B.C. Part of the ancient sixth century wall which surrounded Rome at the foot of the Aventine Hill, this section was erected in 390 B.C. The arch, a later addition, is from the second or first century B.C.

SHOP FRONTS Market of Trajan Rome c. 100-112 On the second level, facing the forum, is an arcade of shops.

STOOL WITH PERPENDICULAR LEGS Girl Decanting Perfume From a wall painting in Villa Farnesina, Rome c. 20 B.C. Museo dell Terme, Rome A copy of a Greek diphros of the fourth or third century B.C., this stool with four perpendicular legs has been changed by cutting down the lower portion of the leg and by elaborating the turnings. There are heavier, almost throne like versions of this stool.

TABULARIUM Forum Romanum Rome 78 B.C. The Tabularium or Hall of Records on the west end of the forum housed the state archives. The side of the building has an arcade with tall arches which are framed by pilasters. This type of facade became common by the first century B.C.

TEMPLE OF CASTOR AND POLLUX AND ARCH OF SEPTIMIUS SEVERUS Forum Romanum Rome The monumental character of Roman architecture is apparent in three columns from the Temple of Castor and Pollux, rebuilt between 7 B.C. and 6 A.D. They are over forty-eight feet high and the entablature is nearly thirteen feet. Beyond is the triumphal arch of Septimius Severus, built in 203 A.D., with its three passageways.

TEMPLE OF FORTUNA VIRILIS On the Tiber Rome 2nd century B.C. While the Greek temple is a sculptural building on all sides, Roman rectangular temples are built to be seen from the front. Normally they sit high on a raised platform, with a long stairway leading up to the portico. The side walls have attached half-columns which are called pseudo-peripteral. Primarily used as a treasury, the celIa is the width of the building. In general Roman, architecture employs columns for decoration instead of support.

TEMPLE OF HERCULES Cori Late 2nd century B.C. A small Doric temple with columns fluted on the upper two-thirds. The bottom part was probably stuccoed red, a common feature in Pompeian columns. The depth of the porch is equal to its width. Notice the platform made of cement and stone.

TEMPLE OF MARS ULTOR Forum of Augustus Rome 2 B.C. Dedicated by Augustus to Mars the Avenger for the death of Caesar's assassins, the Temple of Mars Ultor was a very large temple with Corinthian columns fifty-eight feet high. The marble-faced steps and three large columns survive.

TEMPLE OF ROMULUS Forum Romanum Rome Early 4th century Like many other buildings, the marble facing over the brick of this octagonal temple was removed long ago. This temple has many elements which are brought to fruition in the Pantheon. The octagonal nature of the space will be an influence in the Early Christian and Romanesque temples.

TEMPLE OF SATURN Forum Romanum Rome Restored 320 One of the oldest sacred buildings, the Temple of Saturn in the foreground was rebuilt many times after its dedication around 500 B.C. These eight surviving Ionic columns are from the temple facade, restored in 320 A.D. Romans frequently omitted the fluting from the column shaft. Other temples are in the background. The Coliseum is across the forum in the distance.

TEMPLE OF VESTA Forum Romanum Rome 205 The circular temple of Vesta was founded in 715 B.C. and rebuilt many times over the centuries. It was last rebuilt in 205 by Septimius Severus. A ten foot high podium supported a circular celIa thirty feet across, which was surrounded by Corinthian columns. One ring of columns is engaged to the wall and an outer ring supports the entablature.

TEMPLE OF VESTA Tivoli c. 100 B.C. The cement cella of this circular temple has two windows. Corinthian capitals are handsomely carved and the entablature is elegantly decorated.

TEMPLE OF VESTA On the Tiber Rome 1st century B.C. More directly influenced by Greek architecture, this circular temple has marble Corinthian columns nearly thirty-five feet high. Originally the roof was probably covered with bronze tiles.

THEATRE AT ORANGE c. 50 In the Roman theatre the orchestra is a place to sit, instead of a performing area as the Greeks had used it. The stage grows in importance and is brought into direct contact with the audience. The auditorium is a semicircle, often partially supported by a hill underneath as well as concrete vaulting. Corridors under the tiers were used in case of rain. This is the best-preserved Roman theatre.

THEATRE AT TAORMINA Sicily Built on a hillside by the Greeks in the third century B.C., the theatre at Taormina was remodeled and decorated by the Romans. New entrances were added, also a scaenae frons and the versurae or side buildings which connected the stage to the auditorium.

THEATRE OF MARCELLUS Rome 11 or 13 The one ancient theatre to survive in Rome, the Theatre of Marcellus, was started by Caesar and completed by Augustus in the year 11 or 13. It stands on level ground and is supported by radiating walls and concrete vaulting. An arcade with attached half-columns runs around the building. The columns are Doric and Ionic.

THEATRE OF SABRATHA Tripolitana c. 200 The theatre of Sabratha has a three-story scaenae frons with ninety-six columns decreasing in height from the first to the third story. The scaenae frons is divided into seven sections, which gave the actors many entrances. This was the largest Roman theatre in Africa.

THRONE WITH TURNED LEGS From a wall painting in a Villa at Boscoreale Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Roman furniture is largely based on Greek models. In many instances, it is hard to tell if a piece is Roman or Hellenistic. But there are variations and some original forms. In this throne of a woman playing the kithara, the form is predominantly Greek, though the more elaborate leg turnings, arm-rails, and paneled back are Roman. The painted pattern on the back of the throne is also a typical Roman embellishment. Notice the cushion embroidered in gold.

THRONE WITH TURNED LEGS Mars and Venus From a wall painting in Pompeii Museo Nazionale, Naples Another throne with heavy-set turned legs. A carved figure at the top of the leg supports the arm rest. The straight back ends in a small filial volute. Soft fabric hangs over the back and arms.

TOMB OF CAECILIA METELLA Via Appia Rome c. 30 B.C. A development of the tumulus, the tomb of Caecilia Metella is a travertine-faced cylinder which stands on a square podium. A small inner chamber has a high-vaulted roof in the center. The entrance into the chamber is a small passage cut into the cylinder. On top there was a planted mound. The present top is an addition from the Middle Ages.

TOMB OF THE BAKER EURYSACES Rome 40-30 B.C. For this baker's tomb, the cylinders are typical bread ovens and the frieze depicts stages in bread making. Plebeian art was typical at the close of the Republic and at the beginning of the Empire.

TRAJAN'S COLUMN Rome 114 The pillar of victory is a memorial for military triumphs. Trajan's column, based on the Doric order, illustrates Trajan's war with the Dacians. The 116-foot shaft contains a spiral staircase.

VAULTED WALKWAY Colosseum Rome 70-82 The large cross-vaulted ambulatory on the second level. Covered stairways and ramps also were used to get to seats.

VIA BIBERATICA Market of Trajan Rome c. 100-112 Shops on the Via Biberatica. Above was a large market hall.

VILLA OF MARCUS FABIUS RUFUS Pompeii 77-79 A suburban villa outside of Pompeii, originally situated next to the sea. Almost modern in appearance, it has six large windows in the projecting bay of its dining rooms. Dining close to nature is a Roman ideal.

WALL NICHE Horrea Epagathiana Ostia c. 145-150 This lovely niche with decorative brickwork held a small statue of a god.

5 Places To Discover The Best Mosaics In Rome

Below is just a little itinerary I’m sure in-the-know travelers and lovers of the finest human genius are bound to appreciate, stroll where I intentionally left out other great examples such as Santa Maria in Trastevere Basilica, to which I’ll devote a whole post.

Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica

The colorful Esquilino area, in Monti neighborhood, is home to some of the best mosaics in the city. Start your tour at the beautiful Santa Maria Maggiore basilica, a short walk from Vittorio Emanuele metro station, and indulge in the exquisite combination of art and architecture already from its facade. Then get inside and admire the stunning mosaics dating back to the fifth century flanking the large central nave and illustrating the main biblical tales leading to the main artwork of the huge mosaic decorating the apse.

Address: Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore. Opening hours: Every day 7am-7pm

Santa Prassede Basilica

Santa Prassede basilica is one beautiful hidden gem in central Rome. Very close to Santa Maria Maggiore, inside this church you will also find some important relics such as the bones of some of Rome’s Christian martyrs, including Prassede’s. Both the nave and the two aisles, along with the lovely Zenone Chapel are beautifully decorated with mosaics of the ninth century portraying the Christ and a noble woman, identified with Prassede herself, daughter of a Roman senator and the martyr this basilica is devoted to.

Address: 9/a Via Santa Prassede. Opening hours: Weekday 7.30am- 12pm and 4-6pm Holidays ore 8am-12pm and 4-6.30pm

Santa Pudenziana Basilica

Sister of Prassede, Pudenziana was another martyr and her namesake early Christian basilica, Santa Pudenziana, lies a stone’s throw away from her sister’s resting place. Here you can admire some of the city’s oldest mosaics dating back between 410 and 417, created right after Alaric’s Visigoths’ deadly sack of Rome in 410. Images of Imperial Rome were adapted to the Christian message, so the Christ is portrayed sitting on Emperor Constantine’s throne and the Apostles dressed like Roman senators.

Address: 160, Via Urbana. Opening hours: Every day 8,30am-12pm and 3-6pm

Santi Cosma and Damiano Basilica

Commissioned in the sixth century by pope Felice IV after emperor Theodoric offered the Vatican the ancient Peace forum and the temple of the Divus Romulus. Merged, the two buildings created present-day church devoted to two Greek brothers, doctors and martyrs, that was enriched with a mosaic in the apsis dating back between the sixth and the sevent century and representing the two saints being received in heaven.

Address: 1, via dei Fori Imperiali. Opening hours: every day 9am-1pm and 3-7pm

Caracalla Baths

Romans’ talent for engineering and overall passion for beauty is legendary, with today’s ruins showing only a tiny part of the elegance and majesty of imperial times. Part of their glorious architecture, today we can stare at the wonderful Caracalla Baths. Thermae Antoninianae were commissioned by Caracalla in 212 AD, and it took 5 years and some 9,000 workers to build what now is one of the biggest and best preserved ancient thermal baths. Inaugurated in 216 and renovated several times, they ceased to be operative in 537, when Gothic King Vitige severed the aqueducts to bend and conquer the city by thirst. Apart from the wide gardens and sculptures, we can see big chunks of the original mosaics created to embellish the floors and the interior of beauty salon rooms, usually portraying gods and muscular athletes.

Address: 52 viale delle Terme di Caracalla. Opening hours: open every day from 9am to an hour before sunset, so around 4,30/5pm in winter and 6,30/7pm in summer.

Art History Presentation Archive

“I must go and have a bath. Yes, it’s time,” writes a Roman schoolboy in his exercise book almost 1800 years ago. “I leave I get myself some towels and follow my servant. I run and catch up with the others who are going to the baths and I say to them one and all, ‘How are you? Have a good bath! Have a good supper!’” (Yegul, 30) Such was the accepted universality of bathing as a daily event in the lives of all Romans - young or old, and regardless of one’s sex, race, religion, or wealth, all were invited and expected to have a “bene lava,” a good bath. Visiting one of many public bathhouses was the norm, as no extensive bathing facilities existed in most Roman dwellings. Imperial thermae were the grandest of the public baths. The high level of expertise needed for their construction and the expense of the luxurious décor within meant that oftentimes only the emperor had the resources to commission them. Small privately owned baths called balneae were more common, but fell far short of the thermae in terms of facilities, opulence, and scale.

In fact, the Baths of Caracalla, one of the most famous thermae, was second only to the Colosseum in terms of large scale building projects (Menen, 92). As evidenced by their size alone, they did much more than fulfill a basic hygienic necessity. They served as community centers, providing all the facilities needed for the ideal urban life – a highly desirable balance between physical health and intellectual well-being. One could find gyms, shops, gardens, libraries and lecture halls at the baths. Since entrance fees were often partially or completely subsidized by the government or wealthy individuals, common people could enjoy the available recreation, education, and entertainment. To them, the baths were so important that, according to Yegul, “among the most effective punishments that could be imposed by the government on a community was the closing down of its baths for a period of time” (Yegul 30). Indeed, a daily habit was transformed into a civic institution and eventually became an essential part of Roman identity. It would have been un-Roman not to bathe (Yegul, 2).

Caracalla (186 – 217 CE), an emperor of the Severan dynasty, also recognized the importance of the baths, but for a different reason. The construction of lavish thermae was an immense public work, and it was a given that popular support of the emperor would skyrocket upon its completion. They were richly adorned with trophies, inscriptions, and sculptures, all constant reminders of the prosperity and peace brought by the emperor to the mighty empire. As sources of pride for the community, thermae-building could bestow a lot of power on those who dared to undertake it. It was therefore a useful propaganda tool for an emperor who desired a means to a political end – for example, to bring himself honor and esteem, or to ensure the outcome of an election (Raaschou-Nielsen, 149). Hoping to establish a lasting legacy and increase his popularity with the Roman people, Caracalla insisted on building his namesake baths at all costs. He was an unpopular military dictator who developed a reputation early on for being psychotic and bloodthirsty. There are accounts of Caracalla’s many quirks stemming from his obsessive desire to resemble Alexander the Great. For instance, he would always walk with his head tilted to the right, to emulate Alexander’s pose in famous works of art (Piranomonte, 51). He was also prone to bouts of “mad logic,” as demonstrated by Menen in an excerpt from one of Caracalla’s dialogues: “It is clear that if you make me no request, you do not trust me, if you do not trust me, you suspect me, if you suspect me, you fear me, if you fear me, you hate me. Off with his head…” (Menen, 150) Whether one had a request or lack thereof did not matter when Caracalla craved violent severity he was a dangerous man. Originally, Caracalla’s father Septimius Severus, the first of the Severan emperors, had planned for Caracalla to rule the empire jointly with his brother Geta and his mother Iulia Domna. Caracalla had other plans. He murdered Geta in 212 and, with the purchased support of the army, left more than a thousand Romans dead in the process of securing his emperorship. It is no wonder that he needed the thermae to give his reputation a boost.

Septimius Severus began building the baths during his reign, and had left his son a full treasury to continue construction. But the project proved so expensive that Caracalla resorted to extorting the necessary money from wealthy senators. He became popular among the poor, however, who now had a wonderful community center offering all the best pleasures of Roman urban life.

So attractive were these pleasures that baths tell the story of Romanization and urbanization throughout the empire in fact, the empire’s extent could be indicated by the presence of balneae and thermae. The bathing custom was an effective tool for assimilating conquered peoples into a single, standard culture. Even with its many differences and similarities, the vast imperial Roman civilization could be unified by a coherent pattern of practices that featured bathing’s universal prevalence as its mainstay. It was an activity with the potential to involve the entire urban population and was not confined to the elite like many other Roman pastimes (Raaschou-Nielsen, 149).

History and Origins of Bathing
The act of bathing itself was not a uniquely Roman hobby. As is common with many facets of the ancient Roman world, they borrowed practices from other cultures. In this case, the Romans developed the Greek custom of bathing daily in small private balneae (Menen, 191). Thus, the first baths in Italy were small domestic balneae meant to provide a “good sweat,” a folk remedy for seasonal ailments (Yegul, 50). It is in these balneae that the three basic elements of a Roman bath are first seen: a caldarium (hot room), a tepidarium (warm room), and a frigidarium (cold room). They were privately owned and small, often sharing their walls with surrounding buildings. Though most were open to the public, a potent combination of increasing public interest in bathing and a strong prospering economy led to the construction of thermae, which replaced old and disused balneae. In contrast to the balneae, thermae were huge freestanding structures almost always owned by the state or city and could cater to hundreds of bathers at once (Yegul, 43).

Demand for bathing facilities was at an all-time high. Where people had normally taken a bath about once every ninth day, by the time of Commodus in the late 100’s every Roman bathed once a day, if not more – Commodus himself is said to have to taken a bath 7 to 8 times a day (Raaschou-Nielsen, 137). Bathing truly became a way of life, and Romans were in love with it. A highly sensational and enjoyable experience, to bathe was to soak in a warm clear pool for hours, muscles still tingling from a soothing massage, eyes dazzled by glittering treasures and smooth marble surfaces, while taking in the peaceful echoes of falling water and the aroma of sweet-smelling ointments and perfumes. It would awaken both body and mind. Furthermore, the shared, egalitarian experience of bathing with others was socially satisfying, It encouraged a “classless world of nudity that encouraged friendships and intimacy” (Yegul, 5), and often preceded dinner feasts full of social companionship and entertainment. Bathing had a special place in the structure of a Roman day, an irreplaceable part of a grand ritual of delightful luxury.

The Bath Ritual
The bath itself was highly ritualized. According to the poet Martial, the best time to bathe was 2 o’clock in the afternoon, after lunch and a short siesta. Since the Roman workday was confined to the morning hours, men would often stay at the baths for several hours, until dinner. If one’s schedule did not allow it that day, the bath could possibly be postponed, but under almost no circumstances should it ever be skipped. Still, bathing at night was not encouraged. Large windows provided most of the lighting, so most baths closed before dusk. Fuel was too costly to allow frequent use of artificial lights such as oil lamps. But even with the presence of artificial light, baths were large buildings with negligible security in place – they hid enough danger to make even the most courageous bather think twice about a nighttime excursion.

Most bathers arrived in the mid-afternoon, each carrying their own set of bath equipment. For the wealthy, it was a status symbol to be carried to the bathhouse on a sedan chair with a train of slaves bearing garments and implements in tow. This would include their exercise and bathing garments, sandals, linen towels, and a cylindrical metal box called a cista that stored oils, perfume, and sponges. As the Romans did not have soap, strigils were used for scraping oils off the skin after a massage and exercise.

Most people, however, carried their own equipment and could only afford one professional assistant to anoint and strigil them.

The first stop upon entering the baths would be the apodyterium, much like a modern-day locker room with shelves and cabinets to store clothing and personal effects. There were benches for slaves and servants to sit and keep watch over their masters’ belongings, as theft was quite common. The bather would undress here and move to one of many heated rooms for an oil massage before exercising in a courtyard called a palestra. The exercise was not meant to be strenuous only athletes exercised vigorously. For ordinary people, working up a light sweat was enough to reap health benefits. Ball games were very popular with both men and women. Men favored running, wrestling, boxing and fencing, while it was more suitable for women to swim in the natatio (the swimming pool) or roll a metal hoop called a trochus with a stick.

The second-floor rooms above the palestra were most likely used for sunbathing, massage, or plucking unfashionable body hair. Professional hair-pluckers called depilators were available for hire in these rooms (Yegul, 33).

The tintinnabulum bell announced the opening of the hot baths, and when it rung, all activity in the palestrae would immediately cease. Excited bathers could either go to a sauna-like sweating chamber called the laconicum, get anointed with oil a second time, or soak in the warm tepidarium to start the bath in earnest. The general order of movement from room to room proceeded from the warm tepidarium to the hot caldarium. The bath ended with a plunge in the cold frigidarium. Of course, “one bathed as one wished” (Yegul, 39) and this was not a fixed routine.

Bathers tended to linger in the admirably illuminated caldarium and frigidarium, which were common meeting places for social gatherings and performances. Traveling entertainers such as jugglers and musicians were always present, as were vendors of food and wine. There was something for everyone here, whether it was the sensual dip in the pool and the possibility of getting a tan from the sunlight streaming through the sparkling windows and water, the merriment of eating and drinking with friends in the hot baths, or the peace of contemplative thought after a stirring oration at one of the lecture halls.

One could imagine the sounds emanating from the many different rooms of the baths and blending together in the large central frigidarium. Unfortunate enough to live next to a city bath, Seneca wrote a critical and satiric account of the deafening din:

“…panting and grunting hearties as they swing weights the smacking noise of body massage someone yelling out the scores of a ball game and the commotion caused by a thief caught stealing. To these noises were added the singing of the man who likes his own voice under the vaulted halls the enthusiast who splashes indelicately in the public pool the shrill voice of the hair-plucker advertising his trade, or worse, the yelling of his victims and the incessant cries of the cake-seller, the sausage-seller, the candyman, each with his peculiar tone and style…” (Yegul, 32)

Social Impact
When bathers finally began to leave around dinnertime, friends would say goodbye with “Salve lotus!” This can be translated as “I hope you have bathed well.” In ancient Rome, no one was barred from the all-important pursuit of bathing well anyone who could afford a negligible entrance fee, usually no more than half a cent, could attend one of the eleven thermae or choose from more than eight hundred balneae in Rome that were open to the public. Subsidized by endowments, some were even free (Carcopino, 254).

Since bathing was such an affordable luxury for all, people from many different walks of life could mix freely. There is no evidence of any formal social segregation whatsoever occurring at the baths, and generally, bathhouses were not built specifically to serve any particular classes of clientele (Fagan, 206). The grand thermae of Rome were located to allow easy access from all areas of the city. Many Roman emperors enjoyed bathing with their subjects in the public baths, where they could rub shoulders with the lowliest laborer and gain popular support. This created the temporary illusion of a “classless society,” and as bath scholar Fagan suggests, public bathing was a social leveling system. Some argue that de facto social segregation still occurred, as the wealthy would bathe surrounded by a throng of slave attendants. In fact, during the height of the empire such idleness was considered fashionable, and it was chic to be “thought incapable of doing anything except to have sex and eat” (Menen, 197). It is interesting to note that this life of excess and leisure was made possible by the Roman economy’s dependence on slave labor.

However, the status of slaves at the baths is unknown. They definitely served as attendants while their masters bathed, but direct evidence as to whether they could actually use them as customers is in the form of scarce graffiti or inscriptions on the walls of certain bathhouses (Fagan, 200). It is possible that some slaves had the opportunity to bathe while on duty, but not all attendants would be so lucky – for example, the vigilant slaves who guarded their masters’ clothes in the apodyterium were flogged if they left their post.

Also, Roman medicine promoted bathing as a remedy for many illnesses. With an average life expectancy of 30 years, Romans lived short lives and fell ill often. Thus, as there were no separate facilities for medically prescribed bathing, the healthy and the sick often bathed together. This was another social leveler, albeit detrimental in terms of public health (Fagan, 85).

Integration by gender was not tolerated on the same level. Men and women usually bathed separately, and though some emperors tolerated mixed bathing, the women who visited heterosexual baths did not have the best reputations. More common was the practice of assigning different bathing times: women would bathe in the morning while men would bathe in the more desirable afternoon hours (Yegul, 33).

Bath Architecture and Technology: The Baths of Caracalla
A large part of the enjoyment associated with public bathing was due to the grand beauty of the bath building itself. To reiterate, the vast thermae of Caracalla was a massive treasury-draining construction effort. 9000 workers were employed daily for five years from 212 to 217, and they used several million bricks and more than 252 columns total. 16 of those columns were more than 12 meters high. The whole complex, including the gardens surrounding the central building, occupies a rectangular area of about 337x328 meters and could accommodate up to 1600 bathers at a time (Piranomonte, 13). An extensive network of underground passageways was used for maintenance and storage.

As can be seen from the figure of the plan, the central building was symmetrical. To accommodate the huge volume of customers, the Romans found it more effective to increase the number of rooms rather than their size. The number of entrances and passageways to a room, not its size, determined the flow of the crowd (Delaine, 45). Additionally, the main heated rooms – namely the tepidarium and caldarium – tended to be smaller and situated along the axis of the building, which expedited the heating process.

Solar heating was well-understood, so the caldarium windows were oriented towards the south to make the best use of the sun’s warmth. But that alone could not get the air hot enough, so the Romans developed the hypocaust system. Hypocaust means “fire underneath,” and literally, there were fires burning under the floor. Pillars called pilae raised the caldarium floor about three feet, and large tiles were laid on top of these pillars, to be covered with a layer of concrete and marble. An underground furnace provided the fire the hot gases it created were drawn through the floor space, and heated the floor as they rose and spread out. A series of stacked clay tubes called tubuli lined the insides of the walls and created vertical channels for gases to rise through the walls. Apertures in the roof allowed gases to escape. Heat circulation could then continue and the air inside the caldarium would heat up.

The hypocaust did not heat the water, which was still cold having traveled by aqueduct to the baths. Heating water for the heated pools - 7 hot pools in the caldarium and 2 warm pools in the tepidarium - was accomplished by lighting fires under metal boilers underground. It is not known exactly how hot the water was, but there are accounts of heavy drinkers being carried out unconscious (“Roman Bath”). To maintain these kinds of temperatures, up to 50 furnaces total would be burning at once, consuming an average of 10 tons of wood a day (Piranomonte, 15).

The lofty interior spaces of the central rooms owed their size to the Roman technique of vaulting, which made use of a complex combination of many arches to support the weight of the roof. Before vaulting, ancient builders such as the Greeks supported their roofs with a forest of columns. This greatly compromised the amount of interior space. The Roman solution to this was to build the roof in two curved halves, separately. The weight of a keystone dropped in at the top would push down and outwards on the sections, holding the roof together and freeing up space underneath ("Roman Bath").

None of this would have been possible without the advent of waterproof concrete, arguably the most important technology the Romans developed. The starting material was limestone, cheap and readily available. Heating the stone drove off the carbon dioxide and turned limestone into quicklime. Quicklime was then soaked, or ‘slaked,’ in water to make lime. The Romans added sand and rocks to the lime putty, mixed in crushed tile for waterproofing and included volcanic ash if possible. The end product was a distinctive pink concrete, found in almost all Roman buildings ("Roman Bath").

More available space also meant more room for lavish decorations. Hundreds of bronze and painted marble statues stood in every niche, and the important halls featured fountains and extensive polychrome marble facing. Indeed, every available surface would either be painted or covered with a mosaic. Fragments of stucco decorations can still be seen, attached to the walls of the frigidarium.

What is a mosaic? History of Art

You make the simplest kind of mosaic by taking a lot of black and white pebbles and arranging them on a bed of wet cement on the floor so that they make some sort of pattern, like a checkerboard or a line of black around the outside of the room.

A mosaic floor from the Roman baths of Caracalla

When the cement dries, you have a nice hard floor in your house which is also attractive. The Greeks did a lot of this kind of mosaic in fancier houses.

A Roman mosaic of people dancing from the Vatican Museum in Rome, Italy

If you want to get fancy, you can get stones in a lot of different colors, including colored glass so you can get just the colors you want. And you can make the stones very small, so you can make more detailed pictures. Many Roman houses for rich people, especially from the later part of the Roman Empire, around 300 AD, have these fancier mosaics. These fancy mosaics may have been a cheaper, or more lasting, way to imitate the Persian carpets that rich Sassanians and Sogdians were putting on their floors about the same time.

From St. Marks in Venice, a wall mosaic of Noah releasing a dove (1000s AD)

Around the time that people were beginning to build big Christian churches, in the 300s AD, they also began to decorate the walls of these churches with mosaics. These wall mosaics generally have gold backgrounds (not really gold, but gold-colored glass). In the Roman Empire, in what’s now Greece and Turkey, people kept on making these church mosaics right up to the 1400s, and people in Europe also decorated churches with mosaics until about 1300 AD.

Faces of athletes from Roman mosaic

The faces of the athletes from the great Roman mosaic, found in the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, are shown in great detail. The floor mosaic adorned the exercise area. The mosaic was discovered in 1824 and is now in the Vatican Museums.

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Baths of Caracalla

The Baths of Caracalla (Terme di Caracalla in Italian) are an ancient Roman public baths complex in Rome, the incredible remains of which are one of the very best ancient sites in Rome.

It was the Emperor Septimius Severus who began building the Baths of Caracalla in 206 AD, but they are named after his son, the emperor Caracalla, who completed the works in 216 AD.

Comprised of a vast compound of red-brick buildings, the Baths of Caracalla would, like all ancient Roman baths, have been used for a variety of social functions and could accommodate thousands of visitors at any one time. As well as being where people gathered and bathed, the Baths of Caracalla would have had shops, libraries and galleries as well as other leisure facilities.

Used until they were destroyed by the Goths in the sixth century AD, they Baths of Caracalla were later exploited for their marble. However, due to their position slightly outside the centre of the city, the baths were never built over and have therefore survived in good condition.

Today the hugely impressive remains of the Baths of Caracalla still offer a great insight into what would have been a social hub of the ancient Roman world. With the original walls still towering above and impressive black and white mosaics underfoot this amazing ancient ruin is one of the best preserved of its kind anywhere in the world. Audio guides are available to help explain the various rooms and chambers which can be explored.

However, the fun doesn’t stop there. For it is the recently opened underground sections which will really set your heart racing. An innocuous staircase will take you deep below ground to the tremendously well preserved tunnels and corridors which represent the unseen heart of this complex – where slaves and other workers would have scurried about to keep the waters heated and the customers happy.

Another hidden gem to be found in this underground wonder is one of the best examples of a Temple of Mithras to have survived today. Still containing the original mosaics and alter space this temple is a wonder in its own right.


Caracalla's name at birth was Lucius Septimius Bassianus. He was renamed Marcus Aurelius Antoninus at the age of seven as part of his father's attempt at union with the families of Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius. [3] [4] [1] According to the 4th century historian Aurelius Victor in his Epitome de Caesaribus, he became known by the agnomen "Caracalla" after a Gallic hooded tunic that he habitually wore and made fashionable. [5] He may have begun wearing it during his campaigns on the Rhine and Danube. [6] Dio generally referred to him as Tarautas, after a famously diminutive and violent gladiator of the time. [7]

Caracalla was born in Lugdunum, Gaul (now Lyon, France), on 4 April 188 to Septimius Severus ( r . 193–211 ) and Julia Domna, thus giving him Punic paternal ancestry and Arab maternal ancestry. [8] He had a slightly younger brother, Geta, with whom Caracalla briefly ruled as co-emperor. [3] [9] Caracalla was five years old when his father was acclaimed augustus on 9 April 193. [10]


In early 195, Caracalla's father Septimius Severus had himself adopted posthumously by the deified emperor (divus) Marcus Aurelius ( r . 161–180 ) accordingly, in 195 or 196 Carcalla was given the imperial rank of caesar, adopting the name Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Caesar, and was pronounced Latin: imperator destinatus (or designatus) in 197, possibly on his birthday, 4 April, and certainly before 7 May. [10] He thus became part of the well-remembered Antonine dynasty. [11]


Caracalla's father appointed Caracalla joint augustus and full emperor from 28 January 198. [12] [13] This was the day of Septimius Severus's triumph was celebrated, in honour of his victory over the Parthian Empire in the Roman–Persian Wars he had successfully sacked the Parthian capital, Ctesiphon, after winning the Battle of Ctesiphon, probably in October 197. [14] He was also awarded tribunician power and the title of imperator. [10] In inscriptions, Caracalla is given from 198 the title of the chief priesthood, pontifex maximus. [11] [10] His brother Geta was proclaimed nobilissimus caesar on the same day, and their father Septimius Severus was awarded the victory name Parthicus Maximus. [10]

In 199 he was inducted into the Arval Brethren. [11] By the end of 199, he was entitled pater patriae. [11] In 202 he was Roman consul, having been named consul designatus the previous year. [11] His colleague was his father, serving his own third consulship. [14]

In 202 Caracalla was forced to marry the daughter of Gaius Fulvius Plautianus, Fulvia Plautilla, a woman whom he hated, though for what reason is unknown. [15] The wedding took place between the 9 and the 15 April. [11]

In 205 Caracalla was consul for the second time, in company with Geta – his brother's first consulship. [11] By 205 Caracalla had got Plautianus executed for treason, though he had probably fabricated the evidence of the plot. [15] It was then that he banished his wife, whose later killing might have been carried out under Caracalla's orders. [3] [15]

On 28 January 207, Caracalla celebrated his decennalia, the tenth anniversary of the beginning of his reign. [11] 208 was the year of his third and Geta's second consulship. [11] Geta was himself granted the rank of augustus and tribunician powers in September or October 209. [11] [16] [10]

During the reign of his father, Caracalla's mother Julia Domna had played a prominent public role, receiving titles of honour such as "Mother of the camp", but she also played a role behind the scenes helping Septimius administer the empire. [17] Described as ambitious, [18] Julia Domna surrounded herself with thinkers and writers from all over the empire. [19] While Caracalla was mustering and training troops for his planned Persian invasion, Julia remained in Rome, administering the empire. Julia's growing influence in state affairs was the beginning of a trend of emperors' mothers having influence, which continued throughout the Severan dynasty. [20]

On 4 February 211, Septimius Severus died, leaving his two sons and co-augusti to rule the empire. On the death of his father, Caracalla adopted his father's cognomen, Severus, and assumed the chief priesthood as pontifex maximus. [11] His name became Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus Pius Augustus. [11]

Geta as co-augustus

Septimius Severus had died at Eboracum (present day York, England) while on campaign in Caledonia, to the north of Roman Britain. [21] Caracalla and his brother, Geta, jointly inherited the throne upon their father's death. [16] [21] Caracalla and Geta ended the Roman invasion of Caledonia 208–210 after concluding a peace with the Caledonians that returned the border of Roman Britain to the line demarcated by Hadrian's Wall. [16] [22]

During the journey back to Rome with their father's ashes, Caracalla and his brother continuously argued with one another, making relations between them increasingly hostile. [16] [22] Caracalla and Geta considered dividing the empire in half along the Bosphorus to make their co-rule less hostile. Caracalla was to rule in the west and Geta was to rule in the east. They were persuaded not to do this by their mother. [22]

Geta's murder

On 26 December 211, at a reconciliation meeting arranged by their mother, Geta was assassinated by members of the Praetorian Guard loyal to Caracalla. Geta died in his mother's arms. It is widely accepted, and clearly most likely, that Caracalla ordered the assassination himself, as the two had never been on favourable terms with one another, much less after succeeding their father. [21]

Caracalla then persecuted and executed most of Geta's supporters and ordered a damnatio memoriae pronounced by the Senate against his brother's memory. [5] [23] Geta's image was removed from all paintings, coins were melted down, statues were destroyed, his name was struck from papyrus records, and it became a capital offence to speak or write Geta's name. [24] In the aftermath of the damnatio memoriae, an estimated 20,000 people were massacred. [23] [24] Those killed were Geta's inner circle of guards and advisers, friends, and other military staff under his employ. [23]

Alamannic war

In 213, about a year after Geta's death, Caracalla left Rome, never to return. [25] He went north to the German frontier to deal with the Alamanni, a confederation of Germanic tribes who had broken through the limes in Raetia. [25] [26] During the campaign of 213–214, Caracalla successfully defeated some of the Germanic tribes while settling other difficulties through diplomacy, though precisely with whom these treaties were made remains unknown. [26] [27] While there, Caracalla strengthened the frontier fortifications of Raetia and Germania Superior, collectively known as the Agri Decumates, so that it was able to withstand any further barbarian invasions for another twenty years.

When Geta died in 211, Julia Domna's responsibilities increased, because Caracalla found administrative tasks to be mundane. [17] She may have taken on one of the more important civil functions of the emperor receiving petitions and answering correspondence. [28] The extent of her role in this position, however, is probably overstated. She may have represented her son and played a role in meetings and answering queries however, the final authority on legal matters was Caracalla. [28] The emperor filled all of the roles in the legal system as judge, legislator, and administrator. [28]

Provincial tour

In spring 214, Caracalla departed for the eastern provinces, travelling through the Danubian provinces and arriving in Asia and Bithynia. [11] The winter of 214/215 he spent at Nicomedia. Before 4 April 214 he had left Nicomedia, and in the summer he was at Antioch on the Orontes. [11] From December 215 he was at Alexandria in the Nile Delta, where he stayed until March or April 216. [11]

When the inhabitants of Alexandria heard of Caracalla's claims that he had killed his brother Geta in self-defence, they produced a satire mocking this as well as Caracalla's other pretensions. [29] [30] In 215 Caracalla travelled to Alexandria and responded to this insult by slaughtering the deputation of leading citizens who had unsuspectingly assembled before the city to greet his arrival, before setting his troops against Alexandria for several days of looting and plunder. [25] [31]

In spring 216 he arrived again at Antioch and before 27 May had set out for his Persian War. [11] For the winter of 215/216 he was at Edessa. [11] Caracalla moved east into Armenia. By 216 he had pushed through Armenia and south into Parthia. [32]


Construction on the Baths of Caracalla began in 211 at the start of Caracalla's rule. The thermae are named for Caracalla, though it is most probable that his father was responsible for their planning. In 216 a partial inauguration of the baths took place, but the outer perimeter of the baths was not completed until the reign of Severus Alexander. [33]

These large baths were typical of the Roman practice of building complexes for social and state activities in large densely populated cities. [33] The baths covered around 50 acres (or 202,000 square metres) of land and could accommodate around 1,600 bathers at any one time. [33] They were the second largest public baths built in ancient Rome and were complete with swimming pools, exercise yards, a stadium, steam rooms, libraries, meeting rooms, fountains, and other amenities, all of which were enclosed within formal gardens. [33] [34] The interior spaces were decorated with colourful marble floors, columns, mosaics, and colossal statuary. [35]

Caracalla and Serapis

At the outset of his reign, Caracalla declared divine support for Serapis – god of healing. The Iseum et Serapeum in Alexandria was apparently renovated during Caracalla's co-rule with his father Septimius Severus. The evidence for this exists in two inscriptions found near the temple that appear to bear their names. Additional archaeological evidence exists for this in the form of two papyri that have been dated to the Severan period and also two statues associated with the temple that have been dated to around 200 AD. Upon Caracalla's ascension to being sole ruler in 212, the imperial mint began striking coins bearing Serapis' image. This was a reflection of the god's central role during Caracalla's reign. After Geta's death, the weapon that had killed him was dedicated to Serapis by Caracalla. This was most likely done to cast Serapis into the role of Caracalla's protector from treachery. [36]

Caracalla also erected a temple on the Quirinal Hill in 212, which he dedicated to Serapis. [31] A fragmented inscription found in the church of Sant' Agata dei Goti in Rome records the construction, or possibly restoration, of a temple dedicated to the god Serapis. The inscription bears the name "Marcus Aurelius Antoninus", a reference to either Caracalla or Elagabalus, but more likely to Caracalla due to his known strong association with the god. Two other inscriptions dedicated to Serapis, as well as a granite crocodile similar to one discovered at the Iseum et Serapeum, were also found in the area around the Quirinal Hill. [37]

Constitutio Antoniniana

The Constitutio Antoniniana (lit. "Constitution of Antoninus", also called "Edict of Caracalla" or "Antonine Constitution") was an edict issued in 212 by Caracalla declaring that all free men in the Roman Empire were to be given full Roman citizenship, [38] with the exception of the dediticii, people who had become subject to Rome through surrender in war, and freed slaves. [39] [40] [41] [42] [43]

Before 212 the majority of Roman citizens had been inhabitants of Roman Italia, with about 4–7% of all peoples in the Roman Empire being Roman citizens at the time of the death of Augustus in 14 AD. Outside Rome, citizenship was restricted to Roman coloniae [a] – Romans, or their descendants, living in the provinces, the inhabitants of various cities throughout the Empire – and small numbers of local nobles such as kings of client countries. Provincials, on the other hand, were usually non-citizens, although some magistrates and their families and relatives held the Latin Right. [b] [47]

Dio maintains that one purpose for Caracalla issuing the edict was the desire to increase state revenue at the time, Rome was in a difficult financial situation and needed to pay for the new pay raises and benefits that were being conferred on the military. [48] The edict widened the obligation for public service and gave increased revenue through the inheritance and emancipation taxes that only had to be paid by Roman citizens. [25] However, few of those that gained citizenship were wealthy, and while it is true that Rome was in a difficult financial situation, it is thought that this could not have been the sole purpose of the edict. [48] The provincials also benefited from this edict because they were now able to think of themselves as equal partners to the Romans in the empire. [25]

Another purpose for issuing the edict, as described within the papyrus upon which part of the edict was inscribed, was to appease the gods who had delivered Caracalla from conspiracy. [49] The conspiracy in question was in response to Caracalla's murder of Geta and the subsequent slaughter of his followers fratricide would only have been condoned if his brother had been a tyrant. [50] The damnatio memoriae against Geta and the large payments Caracalla had made to his own supporters were designed to protect himself from possible repercussions. After this had succeeded, Caracalla felt the need to repay the gods of Rome by returning the favour to the people of Rome through a similarly grand gesture. This was done through the granting of citizenship. [50] [51]

Another purpose for issuing the edict might have been related to the fact that the periphery of the empire was now becoming central to its existence, and the granting of citizenship may have been simply a logical outcome of Rome's continued expansion of citizenship rights. [51] [52]

Monetary policy

The expenditures that Caracalla made with the large bonuses he gave to soldiers prompted him to debase the coinage soon after his ascension. [5] At the end of Severus' reign, and early into Caracalla's, the Roman denarius had an approximate silver purity of around 55%, but by the end of Caracalla's reign the purity had been reduced to about 51%. [53] [54]

In 215 Caracalla introduced the antoninianus, a coin intended to serve as a double denarius. [55] This new currency, however, had a silver purity of about 52% for the period between 215 and 217 and an actual size ratio of 1 antoninianus to 1.5 denarii. This in effect made the antoninianus equal to about 1.5 denarii. [56] [57] [58] The reduced silver purity of the coins caused people to hoard the old coins that had higher silver content, aggravating the inflation problem caused by the earlier devaluation of the denarii. [55] [56]

Military policy

During his reign as emperor, Caracalla raised the annual pay of an average legionary from 2000 sesterces (500 denarii) to 2700–3000 sesterces (675–750 denarii). He lavished many benefits on the army, which he both feared and admired, in accordance with the advice given by his father on his deathbed always to heed the welfare of the soldiers and ignore everyone else. [16] [26] Caracalla needed to gain and keep the trust of the military, and he did so with generous pay raises and popular gestures. [59] He spent much of his time with the soldiers, so much so that he began to imitate their dress and adopt their manners. [5] [60] [61]

After Caracalla concluded his campaign against the Alamanni, it became evident that he was inordinately preoccupied with the Greek-Macedonian general and conqueror Alexander the Great. [62] [63] He began openly mimicking Alexander in his personal style. In planning his invasion of the Parthian Empire, Caracalla decided to arrange 16,000 of his men in Macedonian-style phalanxes, despite the Roman army having made the phalanx an obsolete tactical formation. [62] [63] [64] The historian Christopher Matthew mentions that the term Phalangarii has two possible meanings, both with military connotations. The first refers merely to the Roman battle line and does not specifically mean that the men were armed with pikes, and the second bears similarity to the 'Marian Mules' of the late Roman Republic who carried their equipment suspended from a long pole, which were in use until at least the 2nd century AD. [64] As a consequence, the Phalangarii of Legio II Parthica may not have been pikemen, but rather standard battle line troops or possibly Triarii. [64]

Caracalla's mania for Alexander went so far that Caracalla visited Alexandria while preparing for his Persian invasion and persecuted philosophers of the Aristotelian school based on a legend that Aristotle had poisoned Alexander. This was a sign of Caracalla's increasingly erratic behaviour. But this mania for Alexander, strange as it was, was overshadowed by subsequent events in Alexandria. [63]

Parthian war

In 216 Caracalla pursued a series of aggressive campaigns in the east against the Parthians, intended to bring more territory under direct Roman control. He offered the king of Parthia, Artabanus V of Parthia, a marriage proposal between himself and the king's daughter. [6] [65] Artabanus refused the offer, realizing that the proposal was merely an attempt to unite the kingdom of Parthia under the control of Rome. [65] In response, Caracalla used the opportunity to start a campaign against the Parthians. That summer Caracalla began to attack the countryside east of the Tigris in the Parthian war of Caracalla. [65] In the following winter, Caracalla retired to Edessa, modern Şanlıurfa in south-east Turkey, and began making preparations to renew the campaign by spring. [65]

At the beginning of 217, Caracalla was still based at Edessa prior to renewing hostilities against Parthia. [6] On 8 April 217 Caracalla was travelling to visit a temple near Carrhae, now Harran in southern Turkey, where in 53 BC the Romans had suffered a defeat at the hands of the Parthians. [6] After stopping briefly to urinate, Caracalla was approached by a soldier, Justin Martialis, and stabbed to death. [6] Martialis had been incensed by Caracalla's refusal to grant him the position of centurion, and the praetorian prefect Macrinus, Caracalla's successor, saw the opportunity to use Martialis to end Caracalla's reign. [65] In the immediate aftermath of Caracalla's death, his murderer, Martialis, was killed as well. [6] When Caracalla was murdered, Julia was in Antioch sorting out correspondence, removing unimportant messages from the bunch so that when Caracalla returned, he would not be overburdened with duties. [17] Three days later, Macrinus declared himself emperor with the support of the Roman army. [66] [67]

Caracalla's official portrayal as sole emperor marks a break from the detached images of the philosopher-emperors who preceded him: his close-cropped haircut is that of a soldier, his pugnacious scowl a realistic and threatening presence. This rugged soldier-emperor, an iconic archetype, was adopted by most of the following emperors, such as Maximinus Thrax, who were dependent on the support of the troops to rule the empire. [68] [69]

Herodian describes Caracalla as having preferred northern European clothing, Caracalla being the name of the short Gaulish cloak that he made fashionable, and he often wore a blond wig. [70] Dio mentions that when Caracalla was a boy, he had a tendency to show an angry or even savage facial expression. [71]

The way Caracalla wanted to be portrayed to his people can be seen through the many surviving busts and coins. Images of the young Caracalla cannot be clearly distinguished from his younger brother Geta. [72] On the coins, Caracalla was shown laureate after becoming augustus in 197 Geta is bareheaded until he became augustus himself in 209. [73] Between 209 and their father's death in February 211, both brothers are shown as mature young men who were ready to take over the empire.

Between the death of the father and the assassination of Geta towards the end of 211, Caracalla's portrait remains static with a short full beard while Geta develops a long beard with hair strains like his father. The latter was a strong indicator of Geta's effort to be seen as the true successor to their father, an effort that came to naught when he was murdered. [73] Caracalla's presentation on coins during the period of his co-reign with his father, from 198 to 210, are in broad terms in line with the third-century imperial representation most coin types communicate military and religious messages, with other coins giving messages of saeculum aureum and virtues. [74]

During Caracalla's sole reign, from 212 to 217, a significant shift in representation took place. The majority of coins produced during this period made associations with divinity or had religious messages others had non-specific and unique messages that were only circulated during Caracalla's sole rule. [75]

Damnatio memoriae

Caracalla was not subject to a proper damnatio memoriae after his assassination while the Senate disliked him, his popularity with the military prevented Macrinus and the Senate from openly declaring him to be a hostis. Macrinus, in an effort to placate the Senate, instead ordered the secret removal of statues of Caracalla from public view. After his death, the public made comparisons between him and other condemned emperors and called for the horse race celebrating his birthday to be abolished and for gold and silver statues dedicated to him to be melted down. These events were, however, limited in scope most erasures of his name from inscriptions were either accidental or occurred as a result of re-use. Macrinus had Caracalla deified and commemorated on coins as Divus Antoninus. There does not appear to have been any intentional mutilation of Caracalla in any images that were created during his reign as sole emperor. [76]

Classical portrayal

Caracalla is presented in the ancient sources of Dio, Herodian, and the Historia Augusta as a cruel tyrant and savage ruler. [78] This portrayal of Caracalla is only further supported by the murder of his brother Geta and the subsequent massacre of Geta's supporters that Caracalla ordered. [78] Alongside this, these contemporary sources present Caracalla as a "soldier-emperor" for his preference of the soldiery over the senators, a depiction that made him even less popular with the senatorial biographers. [78] Dio explicitly presented Caracalla as an emperor who marched with the soldiers and behaved like a soldier. Dio also often referred to Caracalla's large military expenditures and the subsequent financial problems this caused. [78] These traits dominate Caracalla's image in the surviving classical literature. [79] The Baths of Caracalla are presented in classical literature as unprecedented in scale, and impossible to build if not for the use of reinforced concrete. [80] The Edict of Caracalla, issued in 212, however, goes almost unnoticed in classical records. [79]

The Historia Augusta is considered by historians as the least trustworthy for all accounts of events, historiography, and biographies among the ancient works and is full of fabricated materials and sources. [81] [82] [83] [84] [85] The works of Herodian of Antioch are, by comparison, "far less fantastic" than the stories presented by the Historia Augusta. [81] Historian Andrew G. Scott suggests that Dio's work is frequently considered the best source for this period. [86] However, historian Clare Rowan questions Dio's accuracy on the topic of Caracalla, referring to the work as having presented a hostile attitude towards Caracalla and thus needing to be treated with caution. [87] An example of this hostility is found in one section where Dio notes that Caracalla is descended from three different races and that he managed to combine all of their faults into one person: the fickleness, cowardice, and recklessness of the Gauls, the cruelty and harshness of the Africans, and the craftiness that is associated with the Syrians. [87] Despite this, the outline of events as presented by Dio are described by Rowan as generally accurate, while the motivations that Dio suggests are of questionable origin. [87] An example of this is his presentation of the Edict of Caracalla the motive that Dio appends to this event is Caracalla's desire to increase tax revenue. Olivier Hekster, Nicholas Zair, and Rowan challenge this presentation because the majority of people who were enfranchised by the edict would have been poor. [48] [87] In her work, Rowan also describes Herodian's depiction of Caracalla: more akin to a soldier than an emperor. [88]

Medieval legends

Geoffrey of Monmouth's pseudohistorical History of the Kings of Britain makes Caracalla a king of Britain, referring to him by his actual name "Bassianus", rather than by the nickname Caracalla. In the story, after Severus' death the Romans wanted to make Geta king of Britain, but the Britons preferred Bassianus because he had a British mother. The two brothers fought until Geta was killed and Bassianus succeeded to the throne, after which he ruled until he was overthrown and killed by Carausius. However, Carausius' revolt actually happened about seventy years after Caracalla's death in 217. [89]

Eighteenth-century artworks and the French Revolution

Caracalla's memory was revived in the art of late eighteenth-century French painters. His tyrannical career became the subject of the work of several French painters such as Greuze, Julien de Parme, David, Bonvoisin, J.-A.-C. Pajou, and Lethière. Their fascination with Caracalla was a reflection of the growing discontent of the French people with the monarchy. Caracalla's visibility was influenced by the existence of several literary sources in French that included both translations of ancient works and contemporary works of the time. Caracalla's likeness was readily available to the painters due to the distinct style of his portraiture and his unusual soldier-like choice of fashion that distinguished him from other emperors. The artworks may have served as a warning that absolute monarchy could become the horror of tyranny and that disaster could come about if the regime failed to reform. Art historian Susan Wood suggests that this reform was for the absolute monarchy to become a constitutional monarchy, as per the original goal of revolution, rather than the republic that it eventually became. Wood also notes the similarity between Caracalla and his crimes leading to his assassination and the eventual uprising against, and death of, King Louis XVI: both rulers had died as a result of their apparent tyranny. [90]

Modern portrayal

Caracalla has had a reputation as being among the worst of Roman emperors, a perception that survives even into modern works. [91] The art and linguistics historian John Agnew and the writer Walter Bidwell describe Caracalla as having an evil spirit, referring to the devastation he wrought in Alexandria. [92] The Roman historian David Magie describes Caracalla, in the book Roman Rule in Asia Minor, as brutal and tyrannical and points towards psychopathy as an explanation for his behaviour. [93] [94] The historian Clifford Ando supports this description, suggesting that Caracalla's rule as sole emperor is notable "almost exclusively" for his crimes of theft, massacre, and mismanagement. [95]

18th-century historian Edward Gibbon, author of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, takes Caracalla's reputation, which he had received for the murder of Geta and subsequent massacre of Geta's supporters, and applied it to Caracalla's provincial tours, suggesting that "every province was by turn the scene of his rapine and cruelty". [91] Gibbon compared Caracalla to emperors such as Hadrian who spent their careers campaigning in the provinces and then to tyrants such as Nero and Domitian whose entire reigns were confined to Rome and whose actions only impacted upon the senatorial and equestrian classes residing there. Gibbon then concluded that Caracalla was "the common enemy of mankind", as both Romans and provincials alike were subject to "his rapine and cruelty". [25]

This representation is questioned by the historian Shamus Sillar, who cites the construction of roads and reinforcement of fortifications in the western provinces, among other things, as being contradictory to the representation made by Gibbon of cruelty and destruction. [96] The history professors Molefi Asante and Shaza Ismail note that Caracalla is known for the disgraceful nature of his rule, stating that "he rode the horse of power until it nearly died of exhaustion" and that though his rule was short, his life, personality, and acts made him a notable, though likely not beneficial, figure in the Roman Empire. [97]

The Grand Tour: American Tourism in Italy

Beginning around 1660, "The Grand Tour" became an educational rite of passage for English and Northern European elites, usually young men. The Grand Tour was an extended trip across Europe, an immerson in the sites and artistic achievements of classical antiquity and the Renaissance. The significance of the trip for European elites dwindled by the 19 th century, but improvements in transportation and the growing economic power of the United States fueled a boom in American tourism on the Continent. They too sought adventure, education, and the boost in prestige the trip provided.

Just like travelers today, these American tourists brought souvenirs home with them. Many of them flocked to Italy, home to the remnants of the Roman Empire and a wealth of Renaissance masterpieces. Quite often, they pilfered artifacts from ancient sites. The Roman bust (EI 229) and mosaic fragment (EI4 228 S2) from the Baths of Caracalla, featured in this exhibit, are two such examples, acquired on a trip to Italy in 1872. Likewise, the Ceramic Tear Vase (EI4 333) was picked up from an Etruscan tomb in 1909. There was little protection from this practice until 1939, when Italy passed a law claiming state ownership of all objects of historic and artistic interest. In recent years, the Italian government has adamantly pursued and repatriated its cultural patrimony.

Intrigued tourists also bought reproductions and everyday objects, which are now interesting and valuable in their own right. Model Gondolas, painted Sicilian carts, cameo shells, and Italian card decks were affordable and easily transportable back to the States. Today, such objects provide small snapshots of Italian material culture at the turn of the century.

Katie Anderson was the Elvira Growdon Intern for Collections Management and Curatorial Practice for winter 2017. She is currently completing her MA in History and Museum Studies at Tufts University.

Watch the video: Inside the tunnels of Romes ancient, extravagant Caracalla baths


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