Baths of Caracalla, Rome

Latin: Terme di Caracalla

The Baths of Caracalla located by ancient Appian Way in Rome were named after the emperor Caracalla who reigned from A.D. 211-217. His father Septimius Severus commissioned the baths and after his death the project was completed by his son Caracalla in 216 A.D. This building is among the most monumental and imposing archeological complexes of the entire Imperial epoch. The reign of Caracalla donned an age of cruelty absent from Imperial Rome since perhaps the emperor Domitian or Nero in the second century. Surviving busts of Caracalla portray a scowling and determined man capable of great evil. Indeed, he killed his younger brother to secure his throne. Despite however his personal deficiencies, Caracalla proved to be an apt administrator.

The ruins of these baths are enormous and very well preserved with many mosaics still partially intact. The Baths of Caracalla can be located by taking the Via Terme Di Caracalla and the Via Antonina (where the remains of Arch of Drusus aqueduct /Aqua Antoniniana/ are located as well). Much of the art that was found on the walls and some mosaic floors have been removed and taken to various museums around the world. The interior of the building was enormously rich in color. The marble walls were littered with paintings and mosaics, the floors were also mosaics and painted sculpture adorned many if not all the alcoves. The structure endorsed 6300m3 of marble and employed 600 marble workers and 6,000 tradesmen to labor on this one project. It is said that before his death Septimius Severus issued 13, 000 prisoners of war from his campaigns in Spain to level the ground for the Caracalla Baths. Many of the sculptures would have been on a very grand scale, for example the famous larger-than-life Hercules which was found in the baths in the 16th Century and stands 10ft 6in tall. The baths were designed with a central axis with the intention that from end to end an assortment of statues lining the entire central axis could be visible.

The Baths of Caracalla like all bathhouses in ancient Rome included three fundamental bathing rooms. Thse rooms consisted of the frigidarium (a cold pool), the tepidarium (a lukewarm pool) and the calidarium (a hot pool). These baths could have held up to 1600 bathers who were free to reposition from one pool to the other at their leisure. The walls and floor of both the tepidarium and calidarium were heated by a system called the hypocaust. The floor was raised and spaces were left between the walls to allow for hot air from a massive furnace to circulate through. The Tepidarium and Calidarium were positioned closes to the furnace. The frigidarium was located in the middle of the building and flanked by two massive zones called Palaestra, they were gymnastic areas that were open to the sky. It was in the Palaestra that games and competitions were held, or simply an area to run and workout. Both areas were 1,076 x 1,315 ft (328X400m) in size. The Natatio at the back of the building was an Olympic size pool (80m long) and reserved for recreational swimming activities. The Baths of Caracalla came equipped with two libraries and extensive gardens to walk about and enjoy. The baths provided two basic functions for ancient Romans, they were a necessity in sanitation as most of the population of Rome lived in crowded tenements without running water or sanitary facilities and provided an opportunity to socialize. The ruins of the Baths of Caracalla are breathtaking and are a magnificent testament to Roman architecture. One must note the many arches used throughout the building for both stability and aesthetics. The Baths of Caracalla are a must see when visiting Rome, even in their present state the ruins beckon for us to glimpse into their ancient world and at the same time emanate an unexplainable disquiet. The Caracalla Baths are particularly extraordinary when lit up at night.

During the summer time, the Caracalla baths turn into a platform for breath taking cultural sets: the fancy Teatro dell’ Opera love to held the most famous operas for all the Roman- and non Roman- glitterati here.

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An experience you don’t want to miss: sitting in one of the most magnificent places in the world, listening to some of the most famous operas.