Public bathing in Roman “Suburbia”…

Herculaneum, overlooking the Suburban Baths

A very quick one tonight – it’s past my bedtime.  We started in Region 2 today, ending up in the House of Venus on the Half-Shell, or Venere in Bikini.  Lots of nice, square dining rooms in there.  We left the scavi early to catch the 1pm train to Ercolano.

From the station at the top of the hill in Ercolano, we herded down to the entrance to the excavations at ancient Herculaneum to meet our guide for the afternoon.  She gave us a brief history to the Packard funded restoration/conservation works going on there now, and then led us into the Suburban Baths, overlooking the ancient beach.  I’ve wanted to explore that place for 10 years but it is NEVER open.  The custodians actually locked us IN the baths for about 45 minutes.

They were everything I had expected them to be and then some.  The stucco-work, marble fixtures and furnishings found in the complex are some of the best you can find.  Maybe someday it will be opened to the public.  For now, a lot remains to be completed in the way of stabilization and preservation.  The ever-running battle with humidity is a problem for the archaeologists and preservationists there.  They are constantly repairing and re-repairing plaster, floors, stucco, etc.

The site actually sits below the water-table, so pumps run 24/7 and salts are continually leaching out of everything to cause problems.  Exposure to sun, rain and wind is also a serious problem.  The team of archaeologists, preservationists, architects, geologists and numerous other experts (funded by the Packard Foundation) are preparing to hand over the task of maintaining and protecting the site to the Superintendent of Archaeology for the region in the next couple of years.

Seeing how other major archaeological sites have been “maintained” in Campania, I’m skeptical.  After visiting the large theater in Pompeii two days ago, and witnessing first-hand the “improvements” made with the complete endorsement of the Sopraintendenza to solely profit the Naples theater company, I won’t get my hopes up…

A cast of a large basin made during the pyroclastic flow from the eruption in 79AD

Today was probably a once in a lifetime experience day for me.  I really don’t know when I’ll be permitted to go back in there.  I’ve spent many afternoons with my nose pressed up against the door, trying to catch a glimpse of something, anything.  Today, I finally got one!

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One Response to Public bathing in Roman “Suburbia”…

  1. Catherine says:

    We were in Ercolano a couple of weeks ago (Sept. 6) and they had the bath open to visitors. We too were amazed by what we saw and thrilled to be seeing it. What an experience!

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