Roman Thermae

Located in the southeastern part of the modern city of Varna, the Roman Baths /baths/ are the largest public ancient building discovered so far in Bulgaria. The relatively well-preserved walls are outlined by an impressive building built on an area of more than 7,000 square meters. The ruins have attracted the attention of historians and archaeologists long before archaeological excavations began. Already in 1906, the Austrian scientist E. Kalinka defined the remains as an ancient building. The Shkorpil brothers – pioneers of archaeological science in Bulgaria and founders of the Varna Museum – have a huge credit for awakening scientific interest in this antiquity and for its preservation. They believe that the remains are from an early Byzantine building. Karel Shkorpil was also the initiator of the first fortification works on the highest fragment of a wall rising above the terrain, called by the people of Varna the “Roman Tower” – a name by which the ruins were known before the complete discovery of antiquity. The observations and research of the mentioned scientists were hampered by the embankment that formed over the thermal baths after their destruction. The place was completely built up with residential buildings. The excavations, which the Archaeological Museum in Varna conducted from 1959 to 1971 under the direction of M. Mirchev, discovered the main part of the building. Under the existing ones today surrounding streets remain part of the premises, as does the southernmost artery from the western underground gallery.

The Roman baths of the ancient city of Odessos, today’s Varna, are the largest public building in the Balkans. The Pontic colony of Odessos was founded around 570 BC. by settlers from the Ionian city-state of Miletus. In addition to Greeks, Thracians, Asia Minors, Romans and settlers from many other ethnicities live here.
Wherever the Romans settled, they built baths.

Their water supply was of prime importance, and therefore their construction was preceded by the laying of aqueducts. Information about the construction of the Roman aqueduct was discovered as early as 1851. From the bilingual inscription in Greek and Latin, it is clear that during the reign of Emperor Antony Pius (138-161) the municipality of Odessos and the military governor Titus Vitrasius Pollio captured and brought to the city by piped water. This is believed to have happened in AD 157.

The baths occupied over 7,000 square meters and were oriented according to the directions of the world. The preserved walls reach a height of 22 m in some places. The thermal baths were not only a place for bathing, but also a center of public life. They belong to the “small imperial baths” type. The main baths are: frigidarium – room for bathing with cold water, tepidarium – room for bathing with lukewarm (warm) water, caldarium – room for bathing with hot water. They are located along the mental axis dividing the building into eastern and western parts. The main entrances to the baths are at the east and west ends of the north facade. Three stone steps lead down to the eastern and western vestibules. They are followed by the eastern and western dressing rooms – apoditeria, one of the largest rooms in the building after the basilica thermarum. Here, the visitors left their clothes and valuables for safekeeping with the accompanying slaves or with the designated staff – capsarii.
In accordance with the canon, the Roman architect Vitruvius recommended that the warm rooms in the baths should face south.

The builders of the baths in Odessos also placed in the southern part of the building the heated rooms for bathing with hot and warm water. Extremely hot air was needed for the procedures in the occipital – sudatori. In the next small rooms, the air and water temperatures gradually drop. It is possible that these were small tepidarii. If there were no special rooms in the building for smearing with healing and aromatic balms and massaging the bodies of visitors – unctorii, for rubbing – destrictorii, this was done in the two rooms mentioned.

The heating installation – hypocaustum is an ancient Greek invention from 5-4 centuries BC. In the baths of Odessos, it is half-buried in the terrain, which has the appropriate unevenness in the southern direction. It included the southern service gallery – praefurnium, six hearths – fornicis, two boiler rooms, six draft openings and four chimneys. The toilet – latrina was located in the southwest corner of the western outer gallery. Access to it was from the street, through a separate vestibule with a double door. The small rooms – east, west and north around the building were inns, small shops for “everything for bathing” and for “having a good time in the bath”, brothels, etc.

LocationSt. "San Stefano" Varna 9000Summer working hoursJune - September: 10.00 - 18.00 (no holidays)Winter working hoursOctober - May: 10.00 - 17.00 (holidays: Sunday and Monday)ThemeHistoryShare

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