Sunday, October 27, 2013


Thermes Western
(western baths)
Passing through the rear door of the Musee d'Archeologique, you are transported back over 2000 years to the ancient Roman city of Cemenelum. Founded in 14 BCE by Emperor Augustus, this place on the hill overlooking what is now Nice started out life as a military garrison. The Roman soldiers billeted here helped protect the Via Julia Augusta, the road that connected Rome with its province and linked it to other Roman roads in Arles. At one time the city had as many as 10,000 inhabitants, and it is thought that at least 3 cohorts (1000-1500 men) of Roman soldiers were garrisoned here. While ruins and artifacts are found all over the neighborhoods in Cimiez, the arena and the baths are what have been excavated and studied here.
Baths North
This site actually contains the remains of three separate sets of baths. Each bath was composed of 3-4 rooms of varying heat. The walls were made of stone with marble floors and seating areas. The bath buildings evidently held several windows as many fragments of glass have been found around the walls. Typically, a bather entered the warmer rooms first...the tepidarium (warm room). the laconicum (a round room of intense dry heat), the caldarium (hot room). The North Baths also had a pool of warm water for swimming (natatio), latrines and a garden.  The Western Baths also contained a swimming pool and garden. After swimming, the final bath was a cold one....frigidarium. Each bath also had an area for exercising.
With their genius for controlling and using water, the Romans built a series of aqueducts and drainage systems to bring water to the site of the baths, circulate it through the bathing pools,  flush the latrines, and then carry it all away. Not only was the water heated for each bath, but the floors and rooms themselves were heated as well by an underfloor system of ducts called the hypocaust. Heated air and smoke from wood fires in the furnace room circulated freely through these ducts warming the marble floors. The ducts also kept annoying smoke out of the rooms, funneling it up flues in the walls that warmed them before leaving the building via the roof. Warmest rooms were located closest to the furnace room; cold rooms further away.
Water drainage system

Bathing was an important part of daily Roman life. It was both a hygienic practice and a social one as bathers relaxed and visited together. Nothing I read explained whether the baths excavated here were for everyone or just the Roman elite. Myself...I like to imagine them full of naked, lusty Roman soldiers!

1 comment:

  1. What wonderful pictures! These and the ones at the Matisse Museum and the Picasso photos...I feel like I've just had a whirlwind cultural tour. Love the crumbling walls. There's something mysterious and fascinating about crumbling old stone walls and foundations.