Finished in 75AD by the Romans, the temple and bath-house were heated by a spring which ran under the city. In the 17th-century, the spring water was medically prescribed. Today, you can find a restaurant in the old Pump Room as well as a museum full of Roman bits and pieces.
Before the Romans, the hot springs in Bath were worshipped by a tribe called the Dobunni, who built a shrine in honour of the Celtic goddess Sulis (the goddess of healing). Once the Romans invaded in 43AD, they took over both the goddess and the shrine, building a temple in honour of both Sulis and Minerva (the Roman goddess of wisdom).
Over the next 300 years, the bath-house complex grew, as did the surrounding city, called Aquae Sulis. We know that by the 2nd-century the bath-house had a caldarium (hot bath), tepidarium (tepid bath), and frigidarium (cold bath!).
The Roman Baths offer a fascinating insight into the lives of those living in the 1st to 3rd-centuries: 130 curse tablets were found at the site, mostly curses for stolen clothes! Similarly, the remains of a man who originated from the Levant were found in Bath, who had perhaps travelled there to bathe in the healing waters.
After the Roman occupation ended, the Roman baths fell into disrepair. It wasn’t until the 17th-century when doctors began prescribing the spring water in Bath as a cure for illnesses and the Pump Room was built in 1706. The site was continually developed until 1897 and remains a stunning combination of architectural features including impressive colonnades running along the building’s exterior.
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