Baths of Alba Fucens

"A circle of mountains with harmonious yet succinct silhouettes encloses the valley like an enormous arena, giving the distinct impression of being its own world."
-F. De Visscher,19501.

Alba Fucens was an ancient Italic town at the foot of the Monte Velino. Its remains are today in the comune of Massa D'Albe.
It was a Roman colony founded at the end of the fourth century B.C. during the consulate of Lucio Genucio and Sergio Cornelio. The colony was originally a town of the Aequi and it laid on a hill, in a strategic position.
In 1949 Fernand De Visscher initiated excavations at the site, which were continued by the Belgian archaeologist Joseph Martens. The complex of the baths (or thermae), which is truly remarkable, was brought to light. Indeed thermal baths had a great importance in the Roman Empire.
They had both male and female rooms, many of which were warmed by hypocaust. On the floor of one of the vestibules there is an inscription, which testifies that the complex was restored by Vibia Gallia, a rich woman.
The complex doesn’t present a regular architectural plan because it has undergone changes. Nowadays we can recognize only a few rooms: frigidarium, public baths, steam bath and heated rooms with the system of hypocaust2.


Planimetry of Alba Fucens by Mertens, 1969. The red sign marks the location of the baths, between Via dei Pilastri and Via del Milario3.


View of the whole thermal complex.


This picture shows the ancient entrance to the complex.

The baths were of great importance because the Romans underwent what today can be defined as "nonspecific stimulation". This was linked only to the physical effects of the bath in water: heat, hydrostatic pressure and floatation, exploiting pools and environments with different degrees of heat. An energetic stimulation of some organic functions (breath, cardiac function, venous return, sweating, etc.) was performed. These baths became centers for recreational and social activities in Roman communities. Libraries, lecture halls, gymnasiums, and formal gardens became part of some bath complexes. In addition, the Romans practiced bathing to relieve their suffering from rheumatism, arthritis, and overindulgence in food and drink.


These last three pictures show what was the caldarium. This was a very hot and steamy room, the hottest one in the regular sequence of bathing rooms. It was heated by hypocaust (hot air circulated in the space where columns are in the picture). In these pictures is visible the empty space where the hot air flowed through to heat the floor. The caldarium is next to the market and it is in front of the shops in Via dei Pilastri; it faces south and it is made up of hot water basins.


These pictures probably show the latrine of the complex of the baths.


This was a basin, located behind the caldarium.

  • Photos and main text by Gaia Loiacono moc.liamg|aiagonocaiol#| and Giulia Sterpetti moc.liamg|ittepretsailuig#| (November 2017)

- Adele Campanelli, M.José Strazzulla, Fabrizio Galadini, Poco Grano Molti Frutti. 50 anni di Alba Fucens, SYNAPSIEDIZIONI, Rome 2006.
- J. Mertens, "ALBA FUCENS, Rapports et Etudes", Centre Belge de recherches archéologiques en Italie Centrale et Meridionale, Rome 1969, tome XII.

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