Aquae Albulae (Tivoli)

Aquae Albulae was a group of springs with a Roman thermal establishment located 6 km West of Tivoli (Strada dei laghi, Tivoli Terme).


Albulae were known before Roman times, because:

  • Publius Vergilius wrote about a Fauno’s oracle, probably located in a smoky wood ( where nowAdays there’sTivoli), who predicted the Aeneas’arrival with those words: “At rex sollicitus monstris, oracula Fauni fatidici genitoris adit, locusque sub alta confluit Albunea silva…"
  • Pliny the Elder defined them in Naturalis Hystoriae “ Aquae Albulae sanctissimae: [..] sunt in Italia Albulae appellatae…”

There were two groups of spings, located 14/15 miles from Rome, raising with a temperature of about 25°C nowadays too (as you can see in the photo below).
Those Aquae are bluish, strongly impregnated with sulphur and carbonate of lime. Know all over the world for its healing proprieties and ability in curing diseases as ulcer, body sores, rheumatism, respiratory problems, chronic illness of bladder, skin affections, they were also helpful in molding broken bones, and against regurgitation and miscarriage prevention.
All those medical applications were known by Romans, above all by some Imperators!"


( “sunt acquae sulphureae admodum salutares, in Tiburtina via inter XIV et XV lapidem a Roma et prope TiburVitruvius Pollio)


Divi F. Augustus's achitect, Marcus Vispasianus Agrippa projected and build the Baths near the suggestive Faunus’s wood and, above all, near Albulae principal spring, the so called “Lago della Regina “(which is continually diminishing in size owing to the deposit left by the water).
They were composed by 9 frames (3 for every side,as you can see below by its ruins) and, on every corner, there was a round one.


Looking from outside, the building was composed by full and empty spaces. Insides there were the typical Roman thermal pools (a Calidarium,a Frigidarium and a Tiepidarium) but there was an artificial lake indoor too, where there were lime and waters with a direct connection with the biggest sping.


Caesar Augustus committed those personal Baths because he was imposed by Antonius Musa (Wikipedia) ( his own physician) to have bath with Albulae Waters to cure himself from rheumatism. He was moved on his own stretcher(!!) from Rome to Tivoli for a long time. And with Musa’s advices his health improved considerably. For this reason the physician received freeborn status and a bronze statue near the Aesculapius’s one in Rome.

Augustus was not the only Roman Emperor who exploited Albulae waters: Hadrian wanted to build his wonderful and great Villa in Tivoli (Hadrian Villa) and, personally, was interested in planning a way to take the white water from “Lago Regina” to his Villa. He was successful: nowadays his hydraulic system still runs!
Agrippa’s Baths, the other name of Acquae Albulae, and Tivoli consequently, were the center of Roman “Elite” lives , viewed like an escape from chaotic and crowded Rome of that times. Tivoli was a health resort!
Unfortunately Barbaric invasion (5th century) destroyed everything, and what we can see it’s very far from the magnificence of the origin building (see previous photo and the one below).


Only in 6th century cardinal Ippolito d’Este received a medical advice to exploit Albulae waters and he was so excited to cure himself in this way that he maneged to obtain the political and territorial control of Tivoli. He financed a construction of a channel to take white waters to Agrippa’s Baths to his new Villa, that still brought its name (Villa d’Este).

Although all the building is still abandoned, the Roman medical use of Albulae Aquae and the healthy idea of them was lead “in auge” with a new Albulae Baths. Musa’s advices given to Augustus are still used in treating for dermatological, respiratory therapy; they place side by side the cure of urogenital and vascular sistem too at Aquae Albulae Medical and Thermal Center.


In order to show how important the idea of Agrippa’s Bath to combine a typical thermal idea to health use of Albulae waters was, there's photo of a Hygieia’s marble statue (you can see it below) that was found in Ag]rippa’s Baths and now preserved in Vaticans Museum.
Albulae Baths wealth is still perceptible at Farnese Palace in Rome, where the green murble pillars were taken away from Tivoli Thermae.

  • Photos by Giulia Franceschini ti.liamtoh|9etnemelpmis#|(December 2013)


- Publius Vergilius (Wikipedia), Aeneid VII book.

-Pliny the Elder (Wikipedia), Naturalis Hystoriae.

-Vitruvius Pollio (Wikipedia), De Architectura.

-Tivoli Library Edition, //Le Aquae Albulae di Tivoli, già Bagni di Augusto.

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