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Suburban Baths

Description of the Baths (Outside the Marina Gate)

The Suburban Baths were built around the end of the first century BC on an artificial terrace facing the sea, just outside Pompeii's Marina Gate. They were originally discovered in 1958 and have since been excavated and restored.
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The complex has two storeys, the bottom floor being used as a public baths while the upper floor consisted of three apartments. These baths are much smaller than the bath complexes in Pompeii itself. Like the Suburban Thermae in Herculaneum there is no sign of a women's section. Either men and women shared these facilities, using the baths at different times of the day or different days of the week, or they were for men only.
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On the east wall of the frigidarium a door leads to the cold pool (f) with has a nymphaeum on its east side in the form of a grotto (pictured below) from which a waterfall cascades to the pool beneath. The walls around the pool are decorated with scenes of naval battles, seascapes and marine life framed in red and yellow (pictured opposite).
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A door in the north wall of the caldarium opens onto a rectangular room (j) with a hypocaust floor. This heated room in turn leads to a large heated pool (l) to the north (pictured opposite).
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A secondary entrance to the baths on the north east side of the terrace opens onto a small rectangular vestibule (k). The room (pictured right) is decorated with yellow panels separated by broad bands of red above a lower dark red frieze. The upper zone (pictured above) consists of a decorative stucco frieze with medallions and painted panels depicting theatrical scenes. The room has a fine black and white mosaic floor featuring geometric designs and stylised floral decoration.

A long corridor (m) which opens off the south side of the terrace leads to the latrines (n) and the service area and praefurnium (o), coloured blue in the above plan. On the east wall of the latrines is a painted lararium depicting Fortuna holding a horn of plenty in front of a round altar (pictured opposite) on which an offering has been placed.
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The entrance (a) leads to a terrace (b) (pictured above) by way of a short flight of steps. From here the bather would enter the complex through the vestibule (c). The vestibule (pictured opposite) is decorated in the fourth style with black panels containing small figures on a red ground above a lower red frieze. The room has a fine mosaic floor mainly in black and white featuring a variety of geometric and floral designs. The vestibule gives access to both the frigidarium and the apodyterium through doorways on its north wall.
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The apodyterium (d) (pictured lower left) has a vaulted ceiling and is decorated in the fourth style with a middle zone featuring yellow and black panels above a lower black frieze.
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Unlike the Forum and Stabian baths this changing room had no niches for the bathers clothes. However there was a shelf running round the room above the middle decorative zone on which individual boxes for outdoor clothing would have been placed. Indeed the upper zone (pictured above) underlines this by portraying a series of numbered boxes (from 1 to 16) above the line of the shelf. Associated with each box is an erotic image, perhaps to act as an aide memoire for the bather without a penchant for mathematics.

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The apodyterium leads to the frigidarium (e) which has a fine vaulted ceiling decorated with stucco squares (pictured below). Save for the decorative ceiling, the frigidarium has lost all of its decoration.

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A door on the north wall of the frigidarium leads to the tepidarium (g) which is in a poor state of repair compared to the earlier rooms. The tepidarium has a vaulted ceiling but must have sustained some damage due to the eruption or previous earthquakes. (The building was undergoing repairs at the time of the eruption). In the north east corner of the tepidarium a narrow doorway leads to a small laconicum (h), a hot dry room used for opening the pores as part of the Roman bathing process.

To the north of the tepidarium is the caldarium (i) which is lit by three large windows in the apse on the west side of the room (pictured opposite). The hot bath on the east wall is considerably damaged and the room has suffered almost a complete loss of mural decoration.
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Images ©Jackie and Bob Dunn are reproduced by permission from their website at www.pompeiiinpictures.com
(Su concessione del Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali: Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei)




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