After the visit to the Bardo Museum, and before heading to Sidi Bou Said, it was time for a short visit to the Antonine Baths complex.
These ruins reminded me of the ruins of Conímbriga, near Condeixa-a-Nova, perhaps because of the similarities since both were built by the Romans. The sea as a background makes the visit much more interesting.
Among the small “pipes” that used to transport the water to the rooms and chambers, up and downstairs due to the unique architecture, it is possible to imagine the size of the Thermal Baths and the high number of people who could enjoy them.
Antonine Baths was a huge Roman spa complex built in 145 – 165 B.C., mostly during the reign of the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius, and was among the largest spas to be built in the Roman world, being even the largest complex in North Africa.
These spas on the coast of Carthage were supplied with water from the Borj Jedid cisterns, which in turn were fed with water from the Zaghouan mountains through aqueducts built by Emperor Hadrian.
Because it was so close to the sea, an open-air swimming pool was also created, with a terrace, so that the view could be enjoyed to the full. The sea was also within reach of the Spa users as it was accessible through a huge staircase.
The thermal baths could serve a multitude of visitors and contained several traditional rooms and cameras for a complex like this, such as Frigidarium (cold room), Caldarium (hot room) and Trepidarium (hot bath).
Although its original grandeur is missing, it is worth exploring these fascinating ruins for their picturesque location, with the ocean as a backdrop.
What made Antonine Baths a really original complex was the way it was built. The proximity to the sea required it to be built deeper than usual, and this made it impossible to make the basement the service area as it normally is.
The architects had to adapt the structure and went up a level so that the bathrooms, instead of being on the ground floor, were located on the upper floors of the complex and in their place, at ground level, the hypocaust, the water supply, pantries, and personal rooms.
The unique characteristics of Antonine Baths are the reason why very little remains. The upper floors were lost and the ceiling collapsed shortly after the complex ceased to be used. The only visible remains are the service areas on the ground floor. The ovens can also be identified as wood storage areas for heating the hippocausts, and the clay pipes for hot water.
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