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Baths of Decius

Baths of Decius

Built by the Emperor Decius (A.D. 201-251) on the Aventine Hill. Very little remains, and our main source of information about the baths is a plan made by the 16th-century architect Palladio. Like the other public baths in the city, the Decian Baths were adorned with great works of art. Two survive and are to be found in the Capitoline Museums: an infant Hercules carved in basalt; and a relief showing Endymion sleeping.

Thermae Decianae

From Samuel Ball Platner, A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, rev. Thomas Ashby. Oxford: 1929, p. 526-527.

Built by the Emperor Decius in 252 A.D. on the Aventine (Cassiod. ad a. 252; Chron. min. II.147: his consulibus (Gallio et Volusiano) Decius Romae lavacra publica aedificavit quae suo nomine appellari iussit; Eutrop. IX.4: Romae lavacrum aedificavit; Chron. a. 354, I.147: hoc imperatore thermae Commodianae (an evident error for Decianae) dedicatae sunt; Not. Reg. XIII; CIL XV.7181: in Aventino in domo Potiti v. c. ad Decianas; cf. BC 1887, 266, 293; 1893, 240-241).

A partial plan of these thermae drawn by Palladio about 1600 was found by Lanciani in the Devonshire collection (portfolio 15, pl. 81; LR fig. 210), on which can be traced the outlines of the central hall, the beginning of the caldarium, and the dressing and lounging rooms on the sides, in the usual manner of the Roman baths.

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Additional source material

  • Ancient Library Sources (from Peter Aicher, Rome Alive: A Source Guide to the Ancient City, vol. 1, Bolchazy-Carducci: 2004) [Works cited]

    130. Baths of Caracalla (and baths in general). Sources.


    I cannot for the life of me see why silence should seem necessary for someone who withdraws to write. Consider my own circumstances: a multitude of noises surrounds me, since I live directly above a bath. Try to imagine to yourself every variety of the human voice that is offensive to the ear. When the body-builders exercise and strain (or imitate someone straining) to lift weights, I hear their grunts as they express pent air, followed by the hisses of their harsh inhalations. When one of the clientele relaxes to a cheap rub-down, I hear the noise of hands as they strike his shoulders, ranging from flat smacks to a cupped blow, depending on the stroke. If a ball-player comes along and begins to count the score, I'm finished. Add to this the aggressive loud-mouth, the thief who's been caught, the person who likes to hear himself sing in the bath, and the bathers who love to make big splashes when they jump in the pool.

    In addition to those whose voices are at least normal, listen to the hairplucker keening his presence in a thin shrill tone that never ceases, except when he's found an armpit to pluck, in which case his client yells for him. Top it all off with the drink seller shouting his menu, and the vendors of sausages, pastries, and the cheap-eats from a nearby cook-shop, each of them hawking his wares with his own distinctive call.

    Seneca the Younger, Letters 56.1-2

  • German Archaeological Institute
  • Flickr images
  • Wikipedia

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