Terme di Caracalla( Baths of Caracalla )
The Baths of Caracalla (Italian: Terme di Caracalla) in Rome, Italy, were the city's second largest Roman public baths, or thermae, after the Baths of Diocletian. The baths were likely built between AD 212 (or 211) and 216/217, during the reigns of emperors Septimius Severus and Caracalla. They were in operation until the 530s and then fell into disuse and ruin.
Both during and since their operation as baths, they served as inspiration for many other notable buildings, ancient and modern, such as the Baths of Diocletian, the Basilica of Maxentius, the original Pennsylvania Station in New York City, Chicago Union Station and the Senate of Canada Building. Artworks recovered from the ruins include famous sculptures such as the Farnese Bull and the Farnese Hercules.
Today the Baths of Caracalla are a tourist attraction.
Construction of the baths was probably initiated by emperor Septimius Severus and completed during the reign of his son, Caracalla. They were inaugurated in AD 216. The baths were located in the southern area of the city, Regio XII Piscina Publica, where members of the Severan family commissioned other construction works: the Via Nova leading to the baths and the Septizodium on nearby Palatine Hill.: 7 The site chosen for the baths formerly belonged to a vast garden estate known as the horti Asiniani, developed by Gaius Asinius Pollio during the reign of Augustus. The Farnese Bull sculptural group that was later moved into the Baths of Caracalla was already present at the site in the time of Pollio, who had imported it to display in his gardens.
The estate of Pollio was appropriated by Caracalla to build his baths; the existing structures were demolished in some cases to their ground floors, filled in with earth and incorporated into the foundations of the new complex. The remains of one of these structures, a noble domus (house), were excavated initially by Francesco Ficoroni in the mid-18th century and again in 1860–67 by G.B. Guidi. Recently this two-storey domus deep below the baths, built in 134-138 during the reign of Hadrian, and partially demolished in 206 has been opened to the public revealing lavishly decorated frescoed ceilings and a lararium, a room dedicated to Roman and Egyptian gods.
For work to have been mostly completed in the time of Caracalla, workers would have to have installed over 2,000 tonnes (2,200 short tons) of material every day for six years.
Work on additional decorations continued under Caracalla's successors Elagabalus and Severus Alexander. The baths were likely mostly finished by 235. Later renovations were conducted under Aurelian (after a fire) and by Diocletian. Under Constantine the Great the caldarium was modified.: 7–8
The building was heated by a hypocaust, a system of burning coal and wood underneath the ground to heat water provided by a dedicated aqueduct. The baths were free and open to the public.Late antiquity
The baths were fully functional in the 5th century when they were referred to as one of the seven wonders of Rome. Olympiodorus of Thebes mentions a capacity of 1,600. This is interpreted to refer to the maximum number of simultaneous visitors, as the daily capacity is thought to have been 6,000 to 8,000 bathers.: 8
The baths remained in use until the 6th century. In the mid-4th century a Christian pilgrimage site came into being, known as the titulus Fasciolae, close to the baths near the Church of Santi Nereo e Achilleo. The baths thus became useful to pilgrims and the Church community for their water supply. In 537 during the Gothic War, Vitiges of the Ostrogoths laid siege to Rome and severed the city's water supply. Shortly thereafter the baths were abandoned. Located too far away from the still-populated area of Rome, the baths were mostly disused but in the 6th and 7th centuries were apparently used for the burials of pilgrims who died after being cared for in the nearby xenodochium of Santi Nereo e Achilleo. Some simple tombs from this era have been found inside the bath area.: 8–9
Popes Adrian I, Sergius II and Nicholas I may have had some work done on the aqueduct through the 9th century.: 9
The earthquake of 847 destroyed much of the building, along with many other Roman structures.Other uses
At least since the 12th century the baths were used as a quarry for construction materials, and of decorative pieces to be reused in churches and palaces (e.g. in Pisa Cathedral and Santa Maria in Trastevere).: 9
During the 14th century, the area was used as vineyards and gardens. In the 15th century, Pope Pius II used stone from the Baths in the construction of the Loggia of the Benediction at St. Peter's Basilica. In 1524, Pope Clement VII granted an excavation license to Cardinal Lorenzo Pucci to remove unlimited quantities of columns, marble, travertine and other ancient stone from the Baths of Caracalla for a new palace the Cardinal was building near St. Peter's. In the mid-16th century Clement's successor Pope Paul III had excavations conducted in the area during the construction of his new villa. Substantial architectural decoration remained standing at this time, as documented in the drawings of the Renaissance architects Andrea Palladio, Giovanni Antonio Dosio and Antonio da Sangallo the Elder.
The excavations of Paul III between 1545 and 1547 uncovered many large statues made of marble and bronze, as well as innumerable architectural fragments, lamps, intaglios, and cameos. The quantity of materials was so great that a museum was created to house the collection, known as the Museo Farnese (relocated to the Real Museo Borbonico in the late 18th century). The pope granted the area to the Roman Seminary of the Jesuits. It was used as a playground for children. Philip Neri may have brought children from his oratory here—he is believed to have commissioned the fresco Madonna supported by an angel still located in the natatio.: 10–2
Between the 16th and 18th centuries interest in the structure was rekindled and several famous architects made drawings of the ruins (Andrea Palladio, Giovanni Battista Falda, Giambattista Nolli and Giuliano da Sangallo).: 12
The aqueduct serving the baths was in use up to the 19th century. The Aqua Antoniniana aqueduct, a branch of the earlier Aqua Marcia also worked on under Diocletian, was specifically built to serve the baths.Excavation and restoration
In 1824, excavations at the baths were conducted by Count Egidio di Velo, whose findings included the mosaics showing athletes now at the Vatican Museums. Further work followed by Luigi Canina in the frigidarium (until the mid-19th century) and then by Battista Guidi (1860–7).: 12
From 1866 to 1869 restoration work in the central part of the complex revealed a torso of Hercules, porphyry columns and figure-adorned capitals. In 1870, the area became the property of the Italian government and Pietro Rosa conducted excavations in the eastern palaestra. In 1878–9, Giuseppe Fiorelli discovered mosaics in the caldarium and western palaestra.: 14
From the early 20th century, excavations expanded into the outer areas of the complex and downward, revealing the subterranean passages, including a Mithraeum (see below). Systematic work on the galleries, started in the 18th and 19th centuries, resumed after 1901. On the eastern side more work was done in the late 1930s, when an opera stage was installed in the caldarium. Except for some sketches no documentation of these restorations survives.: 14
Further restoration work took place in the 1980s, when thick vegetation and illegally built houses in the area were cleared away. The southern wall with its cisterns, the southwestern library and the octagonal hall known as the Temple of Jupiter were restored at that point. In 1998–9, the opera stage was dismantled and modern visitor facilities were added to the baths. They reopened to the public in 2001.: 14
The baths were the only archaeological site in Rome to be damaged by an earthquake near L'Aquila in 2009. They experienced minor damage in August 2016 from an earthquake in central Italy.
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