'Picture me with a babel of noise going on all about me, at a public bath-house.'
August 25, 2018
A tour group pushes their way into the foyer, voices babbling in multiple languages, as they jostle and push one another, voices shouting, drowning each other out. I slip between a couple who are posing for selfies in front of an ancient relic, and approach the ticket office.
Tickets in hand and audio-tour against our ears, we follow the arrow to the first exhibit. We look down at the green water below; baths that had been built by Romans in about 60-70 AD. We are at street level; the baths are about two stories below.
Despite it being late in the afternoon, I am surprised to see that there are hundreds of people surging into the Roman baths and museum.
We had arrived in Bath earlier this afternoon on the train; a pleasant trip, which takes just an hour-and-a-half to travel the 156 kilometres from London. It is a beautiful city, which has been a World Heritage Site since 1987.
There is evidence that the area was inhabited by the Mesolithic people, who revered the heated waters rising from the earth. Throughout the ages the waters were used therapeutically, but it had been the Romans, who, in 60 AD began to build the temple. The bathing complex had been built up over a period of three hundred years.
Even after the Romans left Britain, the complex had been used. However, by the 6th century the baths had fallen into disrepair, and were perhaps destroyed. The Roman streets had been lost and the city gradually became a favourite destination by the Royals in search of the therapeutic waters flowing from the ground.
In 1727, the Roman Baths were rediscovered by accident when workmen were digging to install a sewer, but it took until 1775 before the builders broke through the rubble to expose the ancient baths.
When the site was cleared, the baths were found to be intact, even the lead sheets lining the bath are still keeping the site watertight.
We wander through the baths, enthralled with the extent of work carried out by the Romans, but also incredibly aware that without fairly stringent conservation over the centuries, we would not be seeing these sites today.
As we venture further into the museum, I can see that rescued parts of buildings are displayed artfully to provide an idea of how they may have been placed on buildings when they were first built. The ancient carved stones each have a story dating back almost two thousand years ago.
We haven't had a chance to check out the rest of Bath yet. This city is beautiful, and has another more recent history, but that is another story.
We walk out of the museum, but we're not surprised to see hundreds of people from the many tour groups still exploring the shops and restaurants. Tomorrow morning thousands more tourists will tumble out of the trains and coaches and will wander through the Roman Baths and I'm sure they will enjoy it as much as we have.
Title Quote: Seneca the Younger circa 60 AD
Accommodation: Redcar Hotel, 27-29 Henrietta St, Bath BA2 6LR, UK