The History Anorak

The History Anorak

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Baths in Bath

The hot baths in Bath (Aquae Sulis) was one of the largest and most luxurious leisure sites in the ancient Roman world. The naturally hot spring allowed the bath itself to be bigger than anything it was possible to construct over artificial heat. Romans built constructions called hypocausts to act as underfloor heating in bath houses.

The Sacred Spring
They consist of piles of tile-like bricks that support the floor, but allow the flow of hot air from a furnace to pass underneath. Bath has one that warmed the steam room, but didn't need one to heat the bath itself, because the water comes out of the ground at 46 degrees centigrade - a nice, warm bath!

It flowed up from the ground in an area now known as the sacred spring, then was diverted into the bath itself. As well as the bath there were various other rooms including hot dry rooms, like a modern sauna, steam rooms, places for massage, cold pools to cool off in, and it's likely there were places to buy food and drink as well.

Minerva Sulis - Goddess of the waters
Next door to the baths complex was a temple to the goddess Sulis, a Celtic deity who was celebrated on the site before the Romans arrived. Her identity was joined to the Roman goddess Minerva so the temple was dedicated to one figure representing both. A life-sized statue stood in the temple, but all that remains today is her head.

During our recent trip to Bath we were lucky enough to take part in a Museums at Night Week event where we tried authentic Roman food while sitting around the edge of the baths, which were lit with torches, rather than electricity.

The whole complex had an eerie feel to it as a result, which added enormously to the authenticity.  It's £14 a head to get in, which feels slightly expensive, but it's worth every penny. If you're in the area, do make an effort to go and see it.


  1. The Baths are fascinating aren't they? How fantastic to have the expereience of being there at night and eating authentic food by torchlight. I'd love to have the chance to do that.

  2. Such a long time since I went into the Roman Baths, must have been in the late 70s or early 80s. I remember the yellowish light across the baths had a sort of eeriness to it then, it must be even more atmospheric at night time:)


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