Navigation

Photo Gallery

Unique Visitors

Android App

Books

Utilities

Vesuvius Watch

Herculaneum‎ > ‎Insula VI‎ > ‎

Central Thermae

Description of the Central Thermae (Ins VI, 1, 4-10)

The Central Thermae were built around the beginning of the 1st century AD and were divided, as was then the common practice, into men's and women's baths, each with their own separate entrances. The men's baths had two entrances, (a) and (b), both opening onto the palaestra (d) which served not only as a recreational area, but also as a meeting place and an open-air lounge. (The hatched area on the plan to the south may or may not have been part of the complex).

The walls of the colonnade were decorated in the fourth style, with a red central zone beneath an upper zone consisting of red geometric and architectural motifs on a white ground.
..
..
..
..
..
The room is lit by a window placed at the top of the south wall. On all four sides there are benches above which are stalls for the bathers' clothing and perhaps bathing goods such as oils and unctions. The tepidarium was heated by means of hot air beneath the floor and in ducts in the walls.

The caldarium (i) is entered by way of a small door located near the centre of the east wall of the tepidarium. The room, measuring 12.5m by 6.3m, has not fared as well as the preceding rooms, a large portion of the ceiling having collapsed.
..
..
The women's baths, although smaller and less elaborate, have survived in even better condition than the men's. Preceded by a waiting room which has its own entrance (l) on Cardo IV, these baths consist of an apodyterium (m) (pictured right) decorated in red and white with an elegant marine mosaic floor, a tepidarium (n) (below and lower right) again decorated in red and white with a mosaic floor of meanders and squares, and finally a caldarium (o) with a rectangular basin and a circular labrum (pictured bottom right).
..
..
At the back of the building is the service area (j), a well, and a praefurnium with boilers for heating the water and providing the hot air that circulated through the walls of both the men's and women's baths. (The service area, coloured blue on the accompanying plan, had its own entrance (k) on Cardo IV).
...
..
Just to the north of entrance (a) are the men's latrines (c) (shown above) which consisted of an 'L' shaped channel drain fed by the continuous inflow of water from the nearby frigidarium (g). Next to the latrine is a long narrow room, lit by a small window that Maiuri identified as the site for the doorkeeper of the spa. He had the task of monitoring entry and checking the passes required for admission.
..
''
The men's baths are entered directly off the north west corner of the palaestra. The first room, the apodyterium (e) (pictured above, below and left)
has a vaulted ceiling decorated with stucco while the floor is paved in opus scutulatum. On the north wall is a small arched apse, with some remaining traces of decoration, containing a labrum of cipolin, while in the north-west corner are the remains of a rectangular tank. Both were used for washing prior to entering the inner rooms of the baths. The lower portion of the walls below the stalls for the bathers' clothing is decorated in dark red, while the upper zone is in white.
..
..
On the west wall of the apodyterium is the entrance to the frigidarium (g), preceded by a small vestibule (f). The frigidarium was the last room involved in the bathing process, a cold pool to close the pores after bathing in the hot caldarium. The frigidarium, a circular room with a domed ceiling, is accessed from the vestibule (f) through a small doorway on the south side. Directly from the entrance two steps lead down to the plunge pool, which has a diameter of 4.1m and is about 1m deep. The frigidarium is decorated in the fourth style. The circular pool is painted in blue-green, while the walls are decorated in red with the four corner apses decorated in yellow. The dome is in pale blue decorated with fish and other marine animals.

The tepidarium (h) is accessed off the east side of the apodyteriumThe tepidarium, 12m long by 6m wide has a vaulted ceiling decorated with stucco while the floor has a fine mosaic depicting a triton surrounded by dolphins (pictured below).
..
..
..
The caldarium (pictured above) was lit by a window on its southern side above an apse (pictured left) decorated with stucco, which once held a labrum (removed by the Bourbons).

On the opposite side of the room is the large rectangular tank for hot bathing.
In this room, the yellow wall decoration was enhanced by a marble plinth, which covered the perimeter of the room. The room had a mosaic floor but this is now sadly lost.

..
..
..
..



Home........................<.Last House .......................Insula VI.........................Next House.>..................Glossary