Walkthrough

Image: The Great Bath
Image: The Great Bath

The Roman Baths is below the modern street level and has four main features, the Sacred Spring, the Roman Temple, the Roman Bath House and finds from Roman Bath.

Take a walk through the areas of the site below. Click here to view a 3D model of the Roman Baths.

Entrance

Begin your visit to the Roman Baths in the magnificent Victorian reception hall. Here you can receive your personal audioguide at no extra cost. Take a moment to notice the ceiling, decorated with images of the four seasons and surmounted by an elegant dome.

Image: Domed ceiling
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Domed ceiling
Terrace

Walk around the terrace which overlooks the Great Bath and is lined with Victorian statues of Roman emperors and governors of Britain. The statues on the terrace date to 1894, as they were carved in advance of the grand opening of the Roman Baths in 1897.

The Roman Baths were not discovered and explored until the late nineteenth century. The view from the Terrace is the first view you have as a visitor to the baths, but what you can see from here is less than a quarter of the site as a whole.

The Roman Baths extends under the modern ground level, beneath adjacent streets and squares, so many visitors are surprised when they discover just how big the site actually is!

Image: The Terrace
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The Terrace
Meet the Romans

Meet the people who once lived and worked here. Be introduced to Roman Britain and the town of Aquae Sulis that grew up in a bend in the river, around the hot springs.

This area of the museum contains two models of the temple and baths complex at Aquae Sulis, and includes dramatic film projections created from the knowledge that we have of the people who lived here.

Image: Meet the Romans display
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Meet the Romans display
Temple Pediment

See the front of the Temple, one of only two truly classical temples from Roman Britain. It was here that the statue of the goddess Sulis Minerva was housed.

The great ornamental pediment survives, and has been re-erected in the museum. An animation shows how the pediment would have looked in Roman times, and visitors can watch from the amphitheatre style seating. 

The pediment carries the image of a fearsome head carved in Bath stone and it is thought to be the Gorgon's Head which was a powerful symbol of the goddess Sulis Minerva.

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Temple pediment
People of Aquae Sulis

Explore the Roman Baths collection, which is of international significance. It includes thousands of finds from the site itself. This area of the museum includes film projections of Roman characters to interpret scenes of Roman life.

Many of the objects in the museum tell us about the people who lived and worked in the area and those who visited the great Roman religious spa of Aquae Sulis – the Roman name for Bath.

This area of the museum also contains the Beau Street Hoard, a collection of over 17,000 Roman coins which were discovered in Bath in 2007.

Roman Worship

The people of Aquae Sulis visited the baths and temple to worship the goddess Sulis Minerva. In this area you can see some of the private altars that once littered the temple courtyard and find out about the sacrifices made there.

The Facade of the Four Seasons
This unusual building is known from various sculptured stones found in the excavations that took place for the building of the Pump Room in 1790. A facade with carvings of the four seasons was surmounted by a decorated pediment containing an image of the goddess Luna.  The purpose of the building is not clear, but it may have been a place where worshippers might spend the night in the sacred courtyard next to the Temple of the goddess. Here they might have visions in their dreams.

The curse tablets
Some very special objects are the curses, with messages inscribed on sheets of lead or pewter, which were then rolled up and thrown into the Spring where the spirit of the goddess dwelt. The Roman Baths collection of Roman curse tablets, which include Britain’s earliest prayers, has now been included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register of outstanding documentary heritage.

The Tholos
Three large curved and decorated blocks supported by a stone column survive from the frieze of a tholos, a kind of circular temple, which probably stood to the east of the Temple of Sulis Minerva.

Visitors pass beneath the tholos blocks as they descend a staircase in the displays, so they can see the decoration as it was intended originally – from below. Temples like this are known from the eastern part of the Roman Empire and from Gaul, but this is the only one known from Roman Britain.

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Roman worship area
Temple Courtyard

Proceed through the suspended walkway above the Temple Courtyard, and explore the sacred area, where Roman worshippers gathered to pray to the goddess Sulis Minerva.

This was the place where sacrifices were made at the great altar. There are many altar stones and inscriptions here. Visitors can also see breathtaking digital reconstructions of the Roman temple courtyard in this area of the museum.

Minerva's head
The gilt bronze head of the goddess Sulis Minerva is one of the best known objects from Roman Britain. Gilt bronze sculptures are rare finds from Roman Britain as only two other fragments are known. The head is probably from the cult statue of the deity which would have stood within the Temple beside the Sacred Spring, and may well date from the first century AD. Read a more detailed description of Minerva's head here.

Haruspex stone
The haruspex stone was found in an excavation in 1965. The inscription reveals that the stone was set up by L. Marcius Memor, a haruspex, who was a special kind of priest. It was dedicated to the goddess Sulis Minerva and is likely to have supported her statue. The haruspex had the power to advise on the meaning of omens and might be consulted before an important event or proposed course of action.

Sacred Spring

See the Sacred Spring, at the very heart of the site. Naturally hot water at a temperature of 46°C rises here every day and has been doing so for thousands of years.

1,170,000 litres (240,000 gallons) of water rises here daily. In the past this natural phenomenon was beyond human understanding and it was believed to be the work of the ancient gods. In Roman times a Great Temple was built next to the Spring dedicated to the goddess Sulis Minerva, a deity with healing powers. The mineral-rich water from the Sacred Spring supplied a magnificent bath-house which attracted visitors from across the Roman Empire. 

Objects from the Spring
Many objects were thrown into the Sacred Spring as offerings to the goddess, including more than 12,000 Roman coins which is the largest votive deposit known from Britain. Some very special objects are the curses, with messages inscribed on sheets of lead or pewter, which were then rolled up and thrown into the Spring where the spirit of the goddess dwelt.  

Metal pans, known as paterae, might have been used for making offerings of holy water. They are inscribed with the letters DSM or the words Deae Sulis Minerva which shows that they were dedicated to the goddess Sulis Minerva

Spring Overflow
See the Spring overflow which carries surplus water from the hot spring to the original Roman drain, and on to the River Avon four hundred metres away. The Roman plumbing and drainage system is still largely in place today and shows the ingenuity of the Roman engineers. Lead pipes were used to carry hot spa water around the site using gravity flow.

The Roman great drain can be seen through a glass floor in the museum. Some important finds have been made in the drain including a group of 34 gemstones and a mysterious tin mask.

Image: Sacred Spring
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Sacred Spring
Image: Pewter vessels
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Pewter vessels
Great Bath

Walk where Romans walked around the steaming pool filled with hot spa water, the magnificent centrepiece of the Roman Baths bathing complex.

The Great Bath is a massive pool, lined with 45 sheets of lead, and filled with hot spa water. It once stood in an enormous barrel-vaulted hall that rose to a height of 20 metres. For many Roman visitors this may have been the largest building they had ever entered in their life.

The bath is 1.6 metres deep, which was ideal for bathing, and it has steps leading down on all sides. Niches around the baths would have held benches for bathers and possibly small tables for drinks or snacks. A large flat slab of stone is set across the point where hot water flows into the bath. It is known today as the diving stone.

Image: The Great Bath
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The Great Bath
Changing Rooms and Saunas

The Roman Baths were in use for four hundred years and underwent many changes. To help visitors understand the way the bath house was used, we have suspended walls on this east part of the site above the Roman walls.

The eastern range of the Roman bath house contained a large tepid bath fed by water that flowed through a pipe from the Great Bath. A series of heated rooms was developed here which became progressively larger until the site reached its maximum extent in the fourth century AD.

The East Baths area of the Roman Baths, adjacent to the famous Great Bath, includes displays immersing visitors in the sights and sounds of the Roman bath house. Projections, soundscapes and CGI reconstructions show the Roman Baths at the height of their popularity as a working, living and leisure space.  You can watch, listen and step into the Roman Baths as they would have looked in the first to fourth centuries, as Roman characters of all social classes interact with each other.

Image: Projections in the East Baths
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Projections in the East Baths
Heated Rooms and Plunge Pools

See the cold circular plunge pool which is brought to life with animated projections, and the hot rooms which were heated in Roman times using the hypocaust system.

The western range of baths includes a sequence of pools and heated rooms with good surviving hypocaust pilae showing how their heating system would have worked. The cold circular plunge pool is 1.6 metres deep, and just looking at it makes you shiver!

A film of lifesize bathers is projected on to the walls of the Circular Bath, to show how it was probably used in Roman times. The 'shows' occur every few minutes and last about 90 seconds.

The original arched Roman viewing windows link the Circular Bath to the Spring in the King's Bath.

Image: Circular Bath
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Circular Bath
Spa Water Fountain

The spa water fountain is currently not in use.

Taste the famous spa water, containing 43 minerals, which for centuries has attracted visitors to Bath for curative purposes.

Spa water has been used for curative purposes for two thousand years. Originally treatments involved bathing in the hot waters, then in the late 17th Century drinking spa water also came to be a recognised treatment for certain conditions. Today we use the hot spa water to heat the Roman Baths and Pump Room site in winter.

Click here for a full list of the minerals and elements in the water. Visitors can taste the water from a spa fountain in the west baths, or alternatively from the traditional fountain in the Georgian Pump Room above.

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Spa water fountain

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