Few buildings give a greater sense of the monumental grandeur of ancient Rome than the Baths of Caracalla. ‘Standing there like relics of a race of giants long since vanquished from the world’, so wrote the French writer Emile Zola. Henry James noted: ‘Even more than the Colosseum, I think they give you a notion of Roman scale….’
Begun by the emperor Septimius Severus (r. 193-211), circa 206, and opened in 216 by his eldest son and successor Caracalla (r. 211-17), the baths remained in use until the Goths cut off the water supply in the 6th century. The Baths of Caracalla were the second largest in Rome (serving 1,600 bathers), and much more luxurious than the largest, the Baths of Diocletian, which were built a century later.
Although the two main components of the baths, the thermae and the palestrae, were Greek in origin, the idea of combining them with libraries, galleries etc was Roman.
The entire complex, which covered approximately 25 hectares (62 acres), measured 337 by 328 meters (1,105 by 1,076 feet).
Blogging about Rome:
its art, history and culture.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private and
small-group walking tours
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