Bays; The spa that was punished by its blessings

Bays; where the privileged Roman upper class indulged in shady business

Tempio di Venere a Baia (19th century). Image sources: WikimediaCommons.

DDDuring Roman times, the upper classes had an extravagant habit of seeking elegant and expensive places outside the bustling Roman capital, where they bought luxury villas and luxurious mansions in which they spent their holidays and their free time. They longed to spend quality time away from the bustling, noisy and dusty metropolis of Rome, closer to the countryside in a place of relaxation and enjoyment.

Wealthy Romans settled in Capri, Pompeii and Herculaneum. But there was one place that was much more exclusive and classy than the rest of the resorts, it was Baia or Baiae considered far superior and fashionable and the visitors who frequented the stylish and trendy spa resort and its residents in possession lavish villas on its beaches and shores were of far superior status. He was the most privileged of the privileged of the Roman upper class, his “Elite”and the business they engaged in would prove far more illicit, shady, and sinister than anywhere in the Roman Empire.

In Rome, nothing escapes the watchful eye of the powerful senate, which holds an iron fist over Rome and its political leaders. But in Baiae things were different, it was a place where everything was possible, here things happened through corruption, manipulation and bribes.

Roman ruins of Baiae, Italy. Image source: flickr.

From the beginning, Baiae was just an ancient, small and insignificant Roman city on the northwest shore of the Gulf of Naples. But it was its temperate climate and famous mineral springs that first attracted the great Roman nobles to its shores.

Over time, it developed into a very fashionable and popular vacation spot for the Roman elite. Its peppery caldera coast and proximity to Naples worked as one on Rome’s ultra-rich who made weekends here to party.

They were mesmerized by the heated thermal spas and mosaic-covered swimming pools of Baiae which created an amazing atmosphere where they could indulge their wildest desires. This is where they came to conduct illicit business over 2000 years ago.

Baiae was located directly above a collection of natural volcanic vents that were renowned for their healing medicinal hot springs. The abundance of these hot springs quickly created a large collection of thermal baths because the construction of these spas was easy thanks to the already existing natural springs. Baiae’s public and private baths were filled with naturally hot mineral water directed to the pools from underground hot springs thanks to Roman engineers who were able to construct an intricate system of chambers that channeled underground heat to facilities that served as saunas.

Temple of Mercury, Bayes. Image source: WikimediaCommons.

In addition to their recreational function, the baths were used in Roman medicine to treat various illnesses, and doctors treated their patients at the springs. Baiae was supplied with fresh drinking water from a branch of the Aqua Augusta aqueduct; of which we can see a cut nearby. The water was piped to a huge cistern called “Mirabilis Pool”this gigantic fresh water cistern provided fresh water to the entire city of ultra-wealthy upper class citizens.

There are many tales of intrigue around Baiae, a local would have built a nymphaeum*, surrounded by marble statues and a private grotto dedicated exclusively to earthly pleasures. Guests gathered around the pools not only to bathe but also to have their dinner served as it floated on huge dishes at the bottom of the water in the pools.

*The nymphaeum served as a sanctuary, a recevoir and a chamber where weddings were held.

Sex scandals were everyday life and old men came here to become young. It is said that Julius Caesar owned a magnificent mansion in the area, and after being murdered, Cleopatra escaped in a boat from the shores of Baiae. Rulers such as Nero and Cicero had their pleasure palaces here and Haridian is said to have died on his estate in this city in AD 138.

The Hemicycle Nymphaeum Theatre, Archaeological Park of Baiae. Image source: flickr.

Another dark story is when Julia Agrippina plotted the murder of her husband, so that her son Nero could become emperor, on this basis. She poisoned Claudius with deadly mushrooms, but when he somehow survived the attempt, Agrippina asked her doctor to give him a serving of poisonous wild gourd, which eventually did the trick.

Julius Caesar (left) and Cicero (right). Two Roman rulers who owned mansions in Baiae. Image source: WikimediaCommons.

Baiae was known to be a top resort town for centuries, catering to the whims of the Roman elite, so its notorious reputation for its many hedonistic offerings was to be expected as well as widespread rumors of corruption and corruption. scandals. The reason offerings were frequent was because the city rested on natural springs, places that were likely to become offering sites in antiquity.

Sulphurous gas in a volcanic entrance to the underworld. Image source: Pxhere.

Calderas were revered by the ancient Greeks and Romans as entrances to the underworld and therefore had magical powers. But there is also a downside to this. Being close to the underworld means you are close to the gods, they will easily hear your prayers but somewhere on the “Phlegraean Fields” or flaming fields there was an opening guiding you to a long and intricate network of underground tunnels, this would lead you to the Great Antrum deep in the ground. The Cave was the portal of the cave leading to the underworld, through its opening flowed rivers of fire, the legendary rivers of Hades: the Styx and the Phlegethon “rivers of fire”, which boiled the souls of the deceased.

Even among the many mysteries of the ancient world, the grand Antrum over the Bay of Naples surely remains among the most intriguing. But the circumstances around the station also encouraged technological advances such as the local invention of waterproof cement. A cement made from a mixture of volcanic rock and limestone, it sparked the construction of private fish ponds and lavish public baths. Most of the plush villas had their own fish farms for their private consumption, but as the seawater from the pool evaporated quickly on hot days, it became saltier and endangered the fish that lived there.

The solution they found was to supply the ponds with fresh water, during hot summer days, to reduce the salinity of the pond and prevent the fish from dying. The oysters were hung on the seashore in nets, tied together by a rope, as is done today, which facilitates access to the oysters.

The area known to the Romans as the “Phlegraean Fields” is the region containing the calderas and underground tunnel system that are part of a volcano, the twin of Mount Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum. It once had a crater that measured 13 km (eight miles) in diameter, but most of it is now underwater. The Flaming Fields contain a total of 24 volcanoes which, along with the calderas, defined the landscape, ironically that was an apt name.

Remains of the Baiae Underwater Archaeological Park. Image source: WikimediaCommons.

Given Baiae’s sinful reputation, it was perhaps ironic that the abundant volcanic activity that was the source of its rise also became its downfall. Over several centuries, bradyseism, the repeated and gradual falling and rising of the Earth’s surface, caused by both hydrothermal and seismic activity, resulted in the collapse of much of the city in her watery grave, where she lies today. After seeing an aerial photo, taken in the 1940s, rumors began to spread about parts of a hill with buildings, which had disappeared into the sea.

Twenty years later, submarines scanning the area found the lost city, lost since Roman times. Subterranean pressure had caused the land surrounding Baiae to continually rise and fall, pushing the ruins of the ancient city up to the surface only to be swallowed back into the sea, just like some sort of geological purgatory!

It is because of the undulation of the land that the ruins still lie in relatively shallow water. But not everything was swallowed up by the sea, parts of the city partly escaped punishment, and part of the old seaside resort is still accessible by land; it consists of an arid plateau strewn with rubble. As a consolation, many of the sunken sculptures were actually replicas of the originals that can still be found on the hill near Baiae Castle.

Fire erupts from rocks in places, and clouds of sulphurous gas issue from vents leading from deep underground. However, the modern Baiae is now only a shadow of what it once was, the part remaining on land is surrounded by hot and smelly sulphurous gas, and the part swallowed by the sea is perpetually punished in purgatory. The same forces that made Baiae so attractive in the first place were to become those that destroyed it.

About Laurence Johnson

Check Also

African Looted Artifacts Return From Europe — Opinion — The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News

One of the unintended consequences of colonialism is the study of the social and political …