(Bath) Avon, England.
Situated in a meander of the river Avon on low, marshy
ground, ca. 20 km from Bristol and 30 from the sea. The
sole reason for a settlement in such a position is the existence of the hot mineral water spring with its healing
The settlement was founded ca. A.D. 75; it flourished
throughout the period of official imperial protection of
Britain and probably for an indeterminate period afterwards. The principal monument to be seen today is the
vast bathing establishment. Some parts were recognized
during the 18th c., but it was mostly uncovered in 1878-95 and 1922-25.
The hot spring, with a wall around it, served as a reservoir which fed the various baths. The principal ones
were the Great Bath (24 x 12 m and 1.65 m deep) with
steps all around it and a lead-lined bottom; the Lucas
Bath and a rectangular bath later filled in; and at least
one other bath which was later replaced. A circular bath,
10 m in diameter and 1.4 m deep, was later inserted into
the large hall of the initial construction. To these were
added an elaborate series of Turkish and sauna baths,
one series at each end, which reached their maximum
extent in the 4th c. A.D.
The whole establishment was large and architecturally
splendid, as was the other monument with which it was
integrally arranged. This was the Temple of Sulis Minerva, parts of which were found when the present Pump
Room was built in 1790-95; more has been discovered in
excavations since 1964. This was a temple of the Corinthian order, standing on a podium within a large colonnaded precinct. It had a four-columned portico, and the cella behind covered the rear two-thirds of the podium
with Corinthian pilasters bordering it. The front pediment depicted a bearded male Medusa head within a
central shield bounded by oak leaves and acorns, and
supported by flying winged victories on either side; Tritons filled the corner spaces. The podium proportions
(2:1) were Vitruvius' ideal.
The temple precinct contained the usual clutter of altars, remains of monuments, such as a frieze of the four
seasons and other friezes and pediments. Discovered in
1965 was a statue base inscribed with the name of one
Lucius Marcius Memor an Haruspex, apparently an important soothsayer. Another large public building about
which little is known may be a theater. This complex is
unlike anything else in Roman Britain and can best be
paralleled in Mediterranean Gaul.
The remainder of the settlement is comparatively unexplored, largely because of later building, but traces have
been found of houses, or possibly hotels.
A bank and ditch defense was added in the middle of
the 2d c. A.D., later replaced by a stone wall which stood
almost intact, although repaired, until 1720. Little now
survives. The enclosed area covered about 110,000 sq. m.
The stone used in all construction work was the local
oblite limestone known as Bath stone.
Finds from Aquae Sulis and vicinity are in the museum
adjoining the Roman baths. Notable are a gilt bronze
head of Minerva, presumably from a cult statue, and
fine stone work from the baths and temple (including the
temple pediment). There is also a fine hoard of imported
A. M. Scarth, Aquae Sulis
Haverfield, VCH Somerset
(1905); I. A. Richmond &
J.M.C. Toynbee, “The Temple of Sulis Minerva at
45 (1955) 97; B. W. Cunliffe, “Temple of
Sulis Minerva at Bath,” Antiquity
40 (1966) 199-204; id.,
M. B. OWEN