Care to take a bath in Bath?
That’s not a strange question, actually. Since ancient times, residents and visitors in Bath, England, have been taking a dip in its restorative (and once-believed sacred) waters.
Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of those Roman baths, and also because of its honey-colored classic Georgian architecture – some of which is quite mysterious.
The Roman Baths
The Roman Baths are one of the best-preserved ancient religious spas in the world.
Today it’s a museum, carefully constructed over, around and within the ancient bath complex and temple. Originally the site was simply a natural hot spring, and those warm waters still bubble up and fill the baths today. But ancient peoples believed these waters to be magical, and it became a place to worship the gods – one particular goddess, in fact, named Sulis Minerva. You can see images of her, as well as remnants of her temple, today at the museum.
You can also see what the Victorians did to spruce the place up a bit after it was re-discovered centuries later. It’s amazing to see the rough stone of the ancient Roman bath complex – which historians believe was built around A.D. 70. – with the more refined and elegant Victorian architecture built directly on top of it.
It is also incredible to get to walk through and touch all this history in one place. Just don’t jump into the steaming pools, as tempting as it may be. Those are closed to the public.
But you can see hundreds of artifacts discovered within the baths, including letters to Sulis Minerva. The letters were written to the goddess and then dropped into the waters, which the ancient Romans believed were a sort of portal of communication with the gods. The subjects of the letters ranged from praising Sulis Minerva, to asking for money, to asking for punishment of another Roman. Kind of an interesting Dear Santa list, right?
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