Among the most amazing monuments of ancient Rome is the building called Thermae Antoninianae or ‘The Baths of Caracalla’ as we know it. Opened in 217 AD during the reign of Emperor Caracalla as the largest bath complex in the world, the baths were functional for over three hundred years.
The red-brick ruins of the Baths of Caracalla are situated southeast of ancient Rome’s center. The baths were enormous buildings, with huge frescoed vaults covering the massive rooms. This huge eleven hectare (27 acre) large complex housed bathing facilities that could accommodate more than 1,600 people at a time. In total the baths welcomed between 6,000 and 8,000 visitors each day.
Construction of the Baths of Caracalla started in 212 AD and the complex was completed five years later. It was built during the reign of Emperor Caracalla whose official name was Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, hence the original name of the baths, Thermae Antoninianae.
The emperor was nicknamed Caracalla for a Gallic tunic he used to wear, but this name was never officially used. Caracalla is infamous for killing his more popular brother Geta. He is also known for his decision to offer citizenship to all free inhabitants of the Roman Empire, mainly to increase the income from taxes.
The role of the baths in the Imperial Rome
At that time the more than fifty public baths in Imperial Rome played an important part in Roman society. Not only did it improve the cleanliness and health of its citizens, but were also places where Romans came to socialize, gossip and relax. The ritual of bathing was a long process, starting with a hot bath in the calidarium. Next up was the lukewarm tepidarium, followed by the cold frigidarium.
A complex water distribution system ensured a constant flow of water from the Aqua Marcia aqueduct. Below the main buildings were two levels, the upper one was used for services and heating the water, the lower one was used for water drainage. The baths were fully functional until 537 AD when Goths destroyed the aqueduct, cutting off the water supply.
Location: Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, Rome
Nearby hotels: Portrait Roma, Deko Rome, Villa Spalletti Trivelli
Nearby sights: Colosseum, Pantheon, Borghese Gallery
Official website: http://archeoroma.beniculturali.it/siti-archeologici/terme-caracalla
Tel.: 06 5717451