ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Visiting England: The Historic Roman Baths

Updated on August 8, 2012
Click thumbnail to view full-size
The mists of time? Nope, just hot, dirty water.Bath Abbey towers over the Roman Bath museum.A waterfall (perhaps thousands of years old) still flows inside the Roman Baths museum Skull of a man found buried on the site of the Roman BathsGoddess of the Baths: Sullis Minerva
The mists of time? Nope, just hot, dirty water.
The mists of time? Nope, just hot, dirty water. | Source
Bath Abbey towers over the Roman Bath museum.
Bath Abbey towers over the Roman Bath museum. | Source
A waterfall (perhaps thousands of years old) still flows inside the Roman Baths museum
A waterfall (perhaps thousands of years old) still flows inside the Roman Baths museum | Source
Skull of a man found buried on the site of the Roman Baths
Skull of a man found buried on the site of the Roman Baths | Source
Goddess of the Baths: Sullis Minerva
Goddess of the Baths: Sullis Minerva | Source

History of the Roman Baths

The Roman Baths in Bath, England are a historical site excavated below modern street level. The site was originally established by the Celts as a temple to the water goddess Sullis; at that time it was a minimally improved hot spring. The water feeding it rises from deep in the ground, working under a similar mechanism to modern geothermal heating systems. The Romans, who invaded early in the first century, later adopted the temple complex (along with the goddess, who they identified with a deity of their own: Minerva.) and built it into something more like what is seen today: an elaborate social and religious community center. Throughout its existence people have bathed in and imbibed the sodium, calcium, chloride, and sulfate-ion rich waters for medicinal reasons. The site has given up numerous artifacts of the Roman occupied British era, including a bronze head of Sullis Minerva, thousands of Roman coins, and a collection of small curse tablets (most of which are directed at fellow patrons, for the crime of stealing one's clothes while indisposed at the baths).

Bath in British Culture

The site is an effective connection to pre- British culture, and in this way represents current British culture. Part of being British, I think, must be a function of knowing that there is a long history standing behind your flag, and not overlooking the rich history that led to these strange, strange days in which we now live.

When approaching the Roman Baths from the street, one might immediately notice that it is largely overshadowed by the adjacent Bath Abbey, which is a huge, striking and unusual example of Gothic architecture. It can be a little difficult, at least from the outside, to focus on what I was imagining would be a pool of dirty water when Gothic spires are filling the sky over you. Once I got inside, however, the sense of being transported to another time and place is pervasive, and I noticed upon leaving that I felt as though I had been gone longer, and travelled farther than I really had.

Impressions of the Roman Baths Museum

As mentioned above, the site is an excavation of a complex that was used by at least two ancient cultures and restored for modern purposes on a number of occasions: this lends itself to a certain disorganization. The artifacts are clearly marked, though, and there are models on display detailing the complex in its parts; this helps cut through some of the confusion, as do the omnipresent cell phone tour guides.

The most appealing part of this to me, as with many similar historic sites, is the connection that it allows me to feel with the ancients. I relish the idea that ancient Celts and Romans walked the same paths that I am standing on. They argued and cheated, made deals and thought about their next drink in the same places I am scratching notes from placards…and thinking about my next drink. I wonder if any of them paid the same amount of attention that I did when taking in the head of Sullis Minerva, or if it was just an everyday decoration to them. I wonder how far ahead they could cast their imaginations, and if the future they dreamed of was anything like the one that exists today. I know they would have been hard pressed to imagine a world that was anything but Roman, much as we have trouble remembering what a world without the United States was like. Maybe beyond archaeology there is a lesson here somewhere (besides “Don’t drink the water”).

The Takeaway (Not Fish and Chips)

I know for some people it would be hard to imagine making changes to a historical gem like the Roman Baths. I can’t help but wonder, though, if perhaps the tour might seem more authentic if it ended at the nearby modern baths, which are filled by safer, more recently drilled wells that are fed by the same waters (presumably because of little problems with the original, like the case of a young girl who died in the 1970’s of Amoebic Meningitis contracted from the emerald waters). I knew it was a terrible idea, but the whole time I was at the Baths I could barely resist the urge to jump in the water. For me it was a little bit of a let-down to go to a place that consists primarily of a giant pool and never get wet.

As far as my expectations before arriving at the Roman Baths, I’m not sure I really had anything but the vaguest notion of what to expect. Perhaps it is better to say I had a very clinical picture of the place and what it was about. I have never studied, at least to any notable depth, the Celtic or Roman heritage of this location. I was imagining it without the scary yet enticing water. I suppose I felt none of that necessary connection to the human beings that built and frequented it. It certainly qualifies as the type of place you need to see in person to fully appreciate what it has to offer. Without my visit to the Roman Baths, I would also have a less complete collection of fridge magnets and far fewer unsent post cards.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)