Baths of Caracalla

Terme di Caracalla

Baths of Caracalla were the second largest Roman public baths built during the reign of Emperor Caracalla and is the best preserved sample of thermal baths of the period of Roman Empire. Construction of the baths started in 212 AD and was completed in 217 already after the death of the Emperor. Approximately 9000 people were occupied on the project of Baths construction. Baths of Caracalla remained in use until 537 when the complex was taken by the Ostrogoths during the Gothic War, when the hydraulic installations were destroyed. To understand the dimensions of the Baths, just think that they occupied the total area of 11 ha! Baths of Caracalla were considered the Rome’s wonder! From the exterior the building was faced with the marble plates but below the marble there were meters and meters of local stone and concrete, and this is the reason why the edifice survived to our days. Major bathing rooms could accommodate up to 1600 people at once. On the sides there were changing rooms, exercise rooms while in the centre frigidarium (cold room), caldarium (hot room) and tepidarium (room with medium temperature). Caldarium was surrounded by small rooms where people could take the bath separately.

The Caracalla Baths complex of buildings was more a leisure centre than just a series of baths. There was a public library within the complex. Like other public libraries in Rome, there were two separate and equal sized rooms or buildings; one for Greek language texts and one for Latin language texts. The baths hosted galleries and meeting rooms as well. In the centre there were rows with seats placed like in the amphitheatre from where audience could watch the events on the stadium. The stadium could be also observed from the back rooms. The buildings were surrounded by the esplanade with the fountains, play fields and porticos. Baths of Caracalla were richly decorated. Famous mosaic with athletes’ figures was installed in the apsis floor. The mosaic probably dates back to the IV century, it was discovered in 1824 (now displayed in the Vatican Museums). Among the well-known pieces recovered from the Baths of Caracalla is the Farnese Bull, statues of Flora and Hercules, Belvedere Torso (now in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples).

Baths of Caracalla were especially important for poor people; they could use the bath for free along with the club, stadium, garden and culture hall. The extensive ruins of the baths have become a popular tourist attraction. One can visit the survived exercise room with a part of black and white and colour floor mosaic. The door from this room leads to the changing room, and if you go further down, you will get to the pool and from the pool via the inner courtyard into frigidarium. Only two pilasters survived of the huge round caldarium with seven baths. The underground part of the Baths is also very impressive.

Address: Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
Opening hours: Tue-Sun 9 am – 6.30 pm, Mon 9 am – 2 pm
How to reach: metro Circo Massimo, buses 118, 160, 628
Coordinates: 41.879023, 12.492541