Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Temple of Sulis at Bath

No walk this week for various reasons so more pictures from the archives.  I used to work in Bath so was able to visit the Roman Baths and the associated temple remains fairly regularly.

The site has recently had a makeover no doubt to "improve" the visitor experience. Whether it does is definitely debatable. I am not a great fan of the general "dumbing down" and "interpreting" of the remains and I don't think that large moving pictures of reconstructions and the associated sound effects add anything. I find them distracting and annoying but be that as it may. Judging by their proliferation I must be in a  minority

These pictures were taken before the recent changes, some of them would not be possible to take now.

This is the sacred spring itself. It bubbles constantly and in cooler weather you can see the steam rising. Many votive offerings have been found in here along with objects that may have been accidently lost by the priests and of course the famous curse tablets.

There is evidence of Neolithic activity here long before the Romans came and built the temple they dedicated to "Sulis Minerva". The importance of Sulis is reflected in her name preceding that of Minerva,  I am not aware of another case of conflation where the Roman  half of the deity did  not take precedence over the native god/dess. This surely indicates that Sulis ( also known as Sul) was a very important goddess and in fact there are archaeological finds here that originate from as far away as Egypt indicating her importance and power.

This is the famous Gorgon's Head. In fact there are only two snakes, the rest being hair. The main problem with this interpretation is of course that the Gorgon was female and this is unmistakeably a male face. Alternative interpretations are that this is the sea god, Oceanus, a view that is strengthened by the dolphins which form part of the frieze. Another theory is that this is a representation of a Celtic sun god.

 The Temple courtyard.  This was the sacred area surrounding the temple and housed the Great Altar where sacrifices to the Goddess were made, mainly cattle judging by the bones discovered. The area is surrounded by tombstones bearing Roman inscriptions. 
Part of the Great Altar.  Contemporary descriptions describe a fire of burning rocks kept alight on it. Almost certainly a description of coal which is found in the area.

Finally a video. This is taken in a corner of the courtyard and is of the overflow from the Sacred Spring. It captures the steam, the noise and the whole atmosphere of the Temple area.
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