Baths of Nero

Last updated

Two columns from the baths near the church of Sant' Eustachio on via di Sant'Eustachio - three other columns from the baths also survive, supporting the portico of the Pantheon. S eustachio - via di santEustachio - colonne delle terme alessandrine 00934-5.JPG
Two columns from the baths near the church of Sant' Eustachio on via di Sant'Eustachio - three other columns from the baths also survive, supporting the portico of the Pantheon.
The fontana del Senato on Via degli Staderari, re-using a fountain basin from the baths. Fontana di palazzo madama.JPG
The fontana del Senato on Via degli Staderari, re-using a fountain basin from the baths.

The Baths of Nero (Thermae Neronis) or Baths of Alexander (Thermae Alexandrinae) were a complex of ancient Roman baths on the Campus Martius in Rome, built by Nero in either 62 or 64 [1] and rebuilt by Alexander Severus in 227 or 229. [2] It stood between the Pantheon and the Stadium of Domitian and were listed among the most notable buildings in the city by Roman authors [3] and became a much-frequented venue. [4] These thermae were the second large public baths built in Rome, after the Baths of Agrippa, and it was probably the first "imperial-type" complex of baths, with a monumental scale and symmetrical, axially-planned design. While in the sixteenth century the foundations of the caldarium were still visible, nothing else of the structure remains above ground except some fragments of walls incorporated into the structure of Palazzo Madama .

The thermae covered an area of about 190 by 120 metres. Their extent is shown by the modern-day piazza della Rotonda , via del Pozzo delle Cornacchie and via della Dogana Vecchia which now cover the site. The complex's water was initially supplied by the Aqua Virgo - already supplying the neighbouring Baths of Agrippa - then by the newly built Aqua Alexandrina after its restoration in the reign of the early third century emperor Alexander Severus, after whom it was subsequently renamed, though some continued to give it Nero's name. [5] The restoration was part of the extensive building program that Severus undertook during his reign, which also included the restoration of the Baths of Caracalla, the Colosseum, the Temple of Serapis, Circus Maximus, and the Alexandrian nymphaeum, among others. [6] There is some contradiction among ancient sources with regards to whether the Baths of Nero and the Baths of Alexander are the same. Some affirmed that they are identical, while some claim that the two structures were merely close to each other. [7] It is also suggested that the Severus added his baths to the existing facility built by Nero. [7]

Its construction was celebrated by a probable depiction of the baths on a coin of Alexander Severus. [8] According to Sidonius Apollinaris, it was still in use in the fifth century. [9] Its appearance is known from Renaissance drawings made by Palladio and Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and may substantially represent the design as it was the time of Nero. The overall layout of the baths has been confirmed by archaeological findings. [10] It fronted north, and was aligned with its walls facing the points of the compass. In the centre of the colder northern side was the natatio (swimming pool) flanked by two lateral peristyles, which may have been used as palaestrae . At the centre was the frigidarium with four adjoining chambers in the corners, flanked on either side by two apodyteria (changing rooms). South of these a tepidarium flanked by two rooms that may have been sudatoria or laconica (steam rooms) led finally to the southern, hottest end of the complex, where the caldarium stood projecting from the walls on either side, receiving the most sunlight and surrounded by praefurnia or propignea - chambers leading to the furnaces heating the whole thermae. An account stated that forests had been officially designated as sources for its heating fuel and that special taxes were imposed for its maintenance. [11]

Pipes from the Neronian structure were discovered between the piazza and the Salita dei Crescenzi. Neronian opus caementicium - concrete - has also been discovered. Brick stamps dating from the re-building by Alexander Severus were found in the remains of a hypocaust in Palazzo Madama in 1871. Another hypocaust was found on the site of San Salvatore in Thermis. [12]

The ruins have been the source for numerous architectural fragments and sculptures re-used in subsequent centuries. Columns of grey granite, pavonazzetto, and even imperial porphyry were used in the architecture. Some of these, and their white marble capitals, have been found on the site. Several carved stone baths, including an "enormous basin for a fountain 6.70 metres in diameter, cut from a single block of red granite, with pieces of several others" have been found, together with the two complete basins described below. [13]

A monumental monolithic grey granite basin, a labrum, was removed from the site of the baths to the Villa Medici and was in the late eighteenth century moved to Florence. Since 1840, it has stood in the Medici's Boboli Gardens in Florence.

The ruins of the baths also supplied an ornate column capital from the third century renovations of the baths. This capital, carved in relief with scenes of athletic triumph and the wreathing of the victor, was used as the base for the ancient Roman bronze fountain called the il Pignone when it was moved to its present position in the exhedra of the Vatican's cortile della Pigna in 1608.

In the seventeenth century, during a renovation of the nearby Pantheon ordered by Pope Alexander VII, three pink granite columns from the Baths of Nero were used to replace the row of three columns on the damaged extreme eastern end of the Pantheon's pronaos. These columns are themselves badly damaged. [14] [15] Another column of pink granite was removed and re-erected in 1896 near the Porta Pia as a triumphal column supporting a winged victory in bronze and dedicated to the Breach of Porta Pia during the 1870 Capture of Rome, the final military action of Italian unification. Two further granite columns from the baths have been re-erected on-site beside the minor basilica of Sant'Eustachio .

In the late 1980s, building work on the erstwhile Medici residence the Palazzo Madama, now seat of the Italian Senate, brought to light another monumental stone basin - round and of bichromatic black-red Egyptian granite. The basin, which probably stood in the caldarium for hot-water bathing, was restored (it had broken in three places) and was donated by the president of the Senate Giovanni Spadolini to the citizenry of Rome with a public ceremony. It is now a fountain - the fontana del Senato - on a Renaissance pedestal in the area since renamed piazza della Costituente, which connects via degli Staderari with via della Dogana vecchia and the piazza Sant'Eustachio.

Related Research Articles

Baths of Caracalla public baths in ancient Rome

The Baths of Caracalla in Rome, Italy, were the city's second largest Roman public baths, or thermae, likely built between AD 212 and 216/217, during the reigns of emperors Septimius Severus and Caracalla. They were in operation until the 530s and then fell into disuse and ruin.

Villa Madama villa

Villa Madama is a Renaissance-style rural palace (villa) located on Via di Villa Madama #250 in Rome, Italy. Located west of the city center and a few miles north of the Vatican, and just south of the Foro Olimpico Stadium. Even though incomplete, this villa with its loggia and segmented columned garden court and its casino with an open center and terraced gardens, was initially planned by Raphael, and highly influential for subsequent architects of the High Renaissance.

St. Peters Square plaza in Vatican City

St. Peter's Square is a large plaza located directly in front of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City, the papal enclave inside Rome, directly west of the neighbourhood or rione of Borgo. Both the square and the basilica are named after Saint Peter, an apostle of Jesus considered by Catholics to be the first Pope.

Baths of Diocletian national museum

The Baths of Diocletian were public baths in ancient Rome, in what is now Italy. Named after emperor Diocletian and built from 298 AD to 306 AD, they were the largest of the imperial baths. The project was originally commissioned by Maximian upon his return to Rome in the autumn of 298 and was continued after his and Diocletian's abdication under Constantius, father of Constantine.

Baths of Trajan

The Baths of Trajan were a massive thermae, a bathing and leisure complex, built in ancient Rome starting from 104 AD and dedicated during the Kalends of July in 109. Commissioned by Emperor Trajan, the complex of baths occupied space on the southern side of the Oppian Hill on the outskirts of what was then the main developed area of the city, although still inside the boundary of the Servian Wall. The architect of the complex is said to be Apollodorus of Damascus. The baths were being utilized mainly as a recreational and social center by Roman citizens, both men and women, as late as the early 5th century. The complex seems to have been deserted soon afterwards as a cemetery dated to the 5th century has been found in front of the northeastern exedra. The baths were thus no longer in use at the time of the siege of Rome by the Ostrogoths in 537; with the destruction of the Roman aqueducts, all thermae were abandoned, as was the whole of the now-waterless Mons Oppius. Early Christian writers misnamed the remains the 'Baths of Domitian'.

Laconicum was the dry sweating room

The laconicum was the dry sweating room of the Roman thermae, contiguous to the caldarium or hot room. The name was given to it as being the only form of warm bath that the Spartans admitted. The laconicum was usually a circular room with niches in the axes of the diagonals and was covered by a conical roof with a circular opening at the top, according to Vitruvius, from which a brazen shield is suspended by chains, capable of being so lowered and raised as to regulate the temperature. The walls of the laconicum were plastered with marble stucco and painted blue with gold stars.

Palazzo Madama seat of the Senate of the Italian Republic

Palazzo Madama in Rome is the seat of the Senate of the Italian Republic.

Baths of Agrippa

The Baths of Agrippa was a structure of ancient Rome, in what is now Italy, built by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. It was the first of the great thermae constructed in the city, and also the first public bath.

Baths of Constantine (Rome)

Baths of Constantine was a public bathing complex built on the Quirinal Hill in Rome by Constantine I, probably before 315.

Fontana dei Dioscuri water well

The Fontana dei Dioscuri is the fountain set opposite the Palazzo del Quirinale, the official residence of the President of the Italian Republic in the Piazza del Quirinale.

Aqua Alexandrina Roman aqueduct in the city of Rome

The Aqua Alexandrina was a Roman aqueduct located in the city of Rome. The 22.4 km long aqueduct carried water from Pantano Borghese to the Baths of Alexander on the Campus Martius. It remained in use from the 3rd to the 8th century AD.

Fontana delle Tartarughe

The Fontana delle Tartarughe is a fountain of the late Italian Renaissance, located in Piazza Mattei, in the Sant'Angelo district of Rome, Italy. It was built between 1580 and 1588 by the architect Giacomo della Porta and the sculptor Taddeo Landini. The bronze turtles around the upper basin, usually attributed either to Gian Lorenzo Bernini or Andrea Sacchi, were added in either 1658 or 1659 when the fountain was restored.

Fontane di Piazza Farnese

The Fontane della Piazza Farnese are two identical decorative fountains located in the Piazza Farnese, in front of the Palazzo Farnese in Rome, Italy. They were placed in the Piazza in the 16th century.

Piazza della Rotonda

The Piazza della Rotonda is a piazza in Rome, Italy, on the south side of which is located the Pantheon. The square gets its name from the Pantheon's informal title as the church of Santa Maria Rotonda.

The architecture of Rome over the centuries has greatly developed from Ancient Roman architecture to Italian modern and contemporary architecture. Rome was once the world's main epicentres of Classical architecture, developing new forms such as the arch, the dome and the vault. The Romanesque style in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries was also widely used in Roman architecture, and later the city became one of the main centres of Renaissance and Baroque architecture. Rome's cityscape is also widely Neoclassical and Fascist in style.

Via di Ripetta street

Via di Ripetta, also called Via Ripetta, is a street in the historic centre of Rome (Italy), in the rione Campo Marzio, that links Piazza del Popolo to Via del Clementino and, with other toponyms, reaches the church of Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza, on the back of Piazza Sant'Eustachio and close to the Pantheon. It is part of the complex of streets known as Tridente.

Roman Thermae (Varna)

The Roman Thermae are a complex of Ancient Roman baths (thermae) in the Black Sea port city of Varna in northeastern Bulgaria. The Roman Thermae are situated in the southeastern part of the modern city, which under the Roman Empire was known as Odessus. The baths were constructed in the late 2nd century AD and rank as the fourth-largest preserved Roman thermae in Europe and the largest in the Balkans.

Giovanni Battista Mercati Italian painter (1591-1645)

Giovanni Battista Mercati (1591–1645) was an Italian painter and engraver, active in a Baroque style.

Column of Justice, Florence

Column of Justice is an ancient Roman marble Doric column re-erected by the Florentine Medici dynasty in the Renaissance as a free-standing victory monument with a porphyry statue of Justice at the top. It stands in the Piazza Santa Trinita, in central Florence, region of Tuscany, Italy.


  1. Suet. Nero 12; Aur. Vict. Ep. 5; Eutrop. VII.15.
  2. Hist. Aug. Alex. Sev. 24, 25, 42; Eutrop. VII.15; Chron. 147; Hier. a. Abr. 2243; Cassiod. ad 64 and 227, chron. min. II.138, 146; Not. Reg. IX.
  3. Mart. II.48.8; III.25.4; VII.34.5, 9; Philostr. vit. Apoll. iv.42; Stat. Silv. I.5.62
  4. Mart. II.14.13; XII.83.5; CIL VI.8676, 9797.5 = Anthologia Latina (Bücheler and Riese). Leipzig 1894‑1906. 29.5.
  5. CIL VI.3052; Sid. Apoll. Carm. 23.495; Cassiod. Varia II.39.5: piscina Neroniana.
  6. McHugh, John S. (2017). Emperor Alexander Severus: Rome's Age of Insurrection, AD222-235. South Yorkshire, UK: Pen and Sword. p. 123. ISBN   9781473845817.
  7. 1 2 Murray, John (1881). A Handbook of Rome and Its Environs, Thirteenth Edition. London: J. Murray. p. 133.
  8. H. Cohen, Monnaies frappées sous l'Empire. 2nd ed. 8 vols. Paris, 1880‑1892, - Alex. Sev. 17; F. Gnecchi, Medaglioni romani. vol. II.101.6.
  9. Sid. Apoll. Carm. 23.495
  10. John R. Patterson, "The City of Rome: From Republic to Empire", The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 82 (1992), p. 188.
  11. Devore, Gary M. (2008). Walking Tours of Ancient Rome: A Secular Guidebook to the Eternal City (Mercury Guides). Mercury Guides. p. 184. ISBN   9780615194974.
  12. "Thermae Neronianae or Alexandrinae" S. B. Platner, (as completed and revised by Thomas Ashby): A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, London: Oxford University Press, 1929. pp. 531-532.
  13. ibid. pp. 531.
  14. De Fine Licht, K (1968). The Rotunda in Rome: A Study of Hadrian’s Pantheon. Copenhagen: Jutland Archaeological Society. pp. 241–242).
  15. Grasshoff, G., & Berndt, C. (2014). Decoding the Pantheon Columns. Architectural Histories, 2(1), Art. 18.


Coordinates: 41°53′55″N12°28′33″E / 41.8987°N 12.4758°E / 41.8987; 12.4758