So, it’s been a happy seven years since I took my first Latin class and learned all about “o, s, t, mus, tis, n t” to the tune of “Rock Around the Clock” and now I have finally seen evidence, with my own two eyes, that these crazy guys called the Romans existed.
The baths were absolutely beautiful, the exhibit was well done, and as much as I detest audio tour guides, I really liked the one done by Bill Bryson enough to listen to some of it. But mostly, I was just as fascinated as I was when I was fourteen about the idea of public and communal bathing as the center of social life. I especially liked the idea of the Romans, far from home and surrounded by (in their perspective) provincial and barbaric Celts, creating a little oasis of Italy in the middle of Brittania.
I was really impressed by a lot of things at this site (even though it is kind of exploitatively expensive, for the record). But I remembered from way back in high school studying the Roman settlements in Britain, and reading about these curses that were inscribed in soft pieces of lead and thrown in the spring at the temple of Sulis Minerva (a British-Roman hybrid goddess who, of course, provided the healing waters for which the area was famous). Lo and behold:
How cool! Those vindictive ancients.
This face was one of my favorite pieces remaining—the audio guide suggested he looks like a friendly guy you could get a pint with…but he reminded me of when the knocker in A Christmas Carol turns into Marley’s face—sort of pleading and a little terrifying.
The spring itself might have been my favorite part however—I could see the magic and awe it might inspire, the hot water pouring out of rock, and the orange color it dyed everything it touched. I couldn’t really capture the steam rising off the water, but it was spooky and filled the whole dark chamber.
Then I met the pontifex maximus and we had a brief chat in Latin which I’m pretty sure made his day. He was fantastic, for the record. Totally in character and great at encouraging people to participate.
Ultimately, my trip to Bath was absolutely wonderful. It is a beautiful city, and a great place to end my solo adventures in England.