Architecture Around the World

Mosaics - Baths of Caracalla
Rome, Italy
c. 216 C.E

Mosaic: A pattern formed by inlaying small pieces of stone, tile, glass, or enamel into a cement, mortar, or plaster matrix.

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Mythological mosaic fragments propped against Roman brick wall


Poseidon's trident




Chips of colored stone sunk into soil

Chips of colored stone in geometric patterns sunk into soil

Baths of Caracalla
Excerpts from
The Annotated Arch, by Carole Strickland
Pub. by Andrews McMeel, 2001, p. 25

In 354 there were 952 public baths in Rome. Many were complexes that included gymnasia, covered gardens, libraries, restaurants, shops, and museums, with venues for musical performances and lectures. Coffered ceilings, domed rotundas statues and walls covered with marble, mosaic, and alabaster made them more like spiffy spas than soggy locker rooms. Furnaces conducted heat through tile tubes to warm floors and walls, while boilers created hot water for bathing and steam.

Bathing to exercise and relax was a daily ritual for the Romans, but establishments like the mammoth Baths of Caracalla (c. 216 C.E.) offered far more than a soap bar and aerobics. Roman baths, which were a combination health club, school, and all-round recreation facility, were so extensive, one writer called them "provinces."

Built to accommodate thousands and covering 50 acres, they divided into separate rooms for warm (tepidarium), hot (caldarium), and cold (frigidarium) bathing. Romans spent so much time immersed in water, there was even a special room where attendants rubbed them with oil to counter dry skin.

At its peak, when the population of ancient Rome was more than one million, the city consumed 200 million gallons of water a day. Not just baths, but fountains and maritime spectacles created demand for water that was filled by eleven aqueducts, bringing large volumes from faraway springs. Since pumps were primitive, Romans relied on gravity to transport water for distances up to 62 miles. Arched aqueducts spanning valleys kept it at a high level with a continuous gradual line of descent.

Photos and their arrangement 2002 Chuck LaChiusa
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