An Archaeological site all to yourself: The Thermal Baths of Emperor Vespasian
Everywhere in the word this archaeological site would have been studied and open for interested tourists, but not in Italy, and not in authentic and undiscovered Sabina.
This structure was built near Cotilia Lake in an area that was already very important in pre-Roman times as the goddess Vacuna, an ancient rural deity of the native Sabines, was worshipped here. Vacuna was the goddess of fertility, hunting and rest after agricultural toil.
The purpose of these Roman structures is uncertain and for this reason the names given still vary from the Villa of Vespasiano to the Thermal Baths of Vespasiano. It may well have been a place of cult of Vacuna. Nevertheless the name is in each case connected to Tito Flavio Vespasiano (Emperor Vespasian) who was born in this area in Vicus Phalatrinae and died in Cutilia, and his son Titus Flavius Vespasianus known as Titus, the emperors who famously built and inaugurated the Colosseum in Rome. Titus is also infamous for having destroyed the holy city of Jerusalem in AD 70, an event carved into the very stones of the Roman Forum in high relief on the emperors triumphal arch.
The edifice was approximately 200 m long and is laid out over 4 terraces that follow the shape of the terrain. The Roman were experts at mastering nature without violating it. On the second terrace lies the huge natatio or swimming pool, accessible via 4 steep staircases. The pool is 1440 square metres (60m x 24m), bigger than a modern Olympic swimming pool.
The Natatio of the Baths of Vespasian (60x24m)
In ancient Rome punctuating the landscape with temples dedicated to deities that were the manifestation of the strength and benevolence of nature was common. After Constantine the Great and even more so with Theodosius the Great, Christians started to attack and systematically demolish anything that would recall the pagan world. So within the walls of towns and in the rural areas temples were destroyed and replaced by or reused as Christian churches. So the fact that at the same level of the natatio there are ruins of a church may mean that in Roman times this was a Pagan shrine or temple.
A third level above the pool and church ruin is supported by an array of vaults above rooms of different sizes. Behind them there is a a vaulted corridor. A stair case gave access to a third level. Nothing is left of it.
The archaeological site is closed, but easily accessible through an unlocked gate, but this sad fact is counterbalanced by the emotion of walking alone in the grandeur of such majestic and evocative ruins.
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