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THE ROMAN BATHS OF MATELICA
The public baths of the ancient Matilica were located at the decumanus, the Roman road that crossed the city from East to West, the current Via Umberto I.
The thermal complex dates back probably to the first centuries of the empire (1-2nd century A.C.) with successive renovations, was organized around a large central courtyard, found largely below the audience, from which probably accessed a series of rooms functional to the thermal path.
The only ones visible below the stage are a cocciopesto tub, set above a previous marble tank with mosaic inserts, rooms with suspensurae, that is, with “suspended floors” that, supported by brick pillars, covered the hypocausto (from the Greek hypokàio = burning below), the empty space under the level of trampling of the floors in which the hot air from the furnace circulated, located in the baths of Matelica near the south-eastern limit of the area and a bathtub with a bottom of white tiles bordered at least on two sides by docks, of which only one preserved, subsequently adapted to an environment with hypocausto and crossed, like adjacent environments, by a late wall.
The mosaic compartment is flanked by a sewer duct that also had to take advantage of the continuous flow of water coming from the tank, to facilitate the purging of the wastewater of the thermal system.
ROMANS AND THERMAL BATHS
The thermal architecture of the Roman age refers to what is described in the first century B.C. by Marco Vitruvio Pollione in De Architectura (lib. V, Ch. X), with the sequence of the main rooms of the tepidarium (warm bathroom room), calidarium (warm bathroom room) and frigidarium (cold bathroom room).
The spa route included the first stop in the dressing room, where the visitors left their belongings. So they could choose whether to engage in physical exercises in the palaestra courtyard or get a massage. They then entered a moderately heated room to acclimatize their bodies to heat (tepidarium), then they could enter a sauna room (sudatarium) and from here to the next warm room (calidarium) where sweat could be cleaned in a water basin (labrum) or in a bathtub (alveus).
The tepidarium and calidarium were connected to each other: in the two rooms the heat was spread by hearths placed in the praefurnium, in direct relation to the calidarium, which communicated with the hypocaustes. From the tepidarium we moved on to the calidarium and from here to the frigidarium, whose function in the Baths of Matelica had to be carried out initially, before being transformed into a heated environment, by the tub with mosaic of white tiles, where the visit to the spa probably ended with a final ablution in cold water.
The thermal buildings were adorned with mosaics, marble, frescoes and stuccoes at the top of the walls and ceilings. The furniture consisted of statues, fountains, metal braziers, metal or marble benches.
During the renovation of the “G.Piermarini” Municipal Theater (formerly condominium theater), which began in 1983 and ended with the reopening of the theater in 1995, environments and structures of a Roman-era spa built on a pre-Roman settlement have emerged.
In 1987, as part of the same construction site, foundations of an older structure consisting of foundation masonry made of river pebbles and stones were found below the stalls, as well as circular holes, layers with roof tiles and parietal fragments of dried clay related to the original cladding of the wooden structure of the walls. The data provided by the materials recovered in the excavation, including some fragments of red figure Attic pottery, allowed to date the structure to the 5th century b.C.. In 1997, on the occasion of the refurbishment of the city aqueduct along Via Umberto I, the discovery of the entrance rooms of the thermal baths took place.
Click here to discover more about the history of the Roman baths.
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