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  • Level: GCSE
  • Subject: Maths
  • Word count: 14979

Aquae Sulis was a very religious site. The site was dedicated to the water god "Sulis Minerva". It consisted of many sacred places. This includes The Spring, The Classical Temple and The Altar. I will be examining and analysing the Roman Baths.

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ñCompObj            V            ■                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           n Bath he is shown in the guise of a male with the wedge-shaped nose, the lentoid eyes, moustaches and beetling brow of a Celtic god. His fierce upstanding hair merges into wings and serpents, as he stares, in no way incongruously, from his classical surroundings. The winged Victories perch precariously upon globes, while beyond them, in the corners of the pediment, are figures thought possibly to be tritons, but too little of them now survives to be sure. Below the shield, filling the spaces between its curved lower edge and the drapery of the Victories, are two helmets, one in the form of a dolphin s head, the other providing a perch for a rather startled owl, rooted to the ground by two hands clasping his wings. Both owl and dolphin are attributes closely linked to Minerva.  

                   It is difficult to escape from the view that the Bath Gorgon is a visual conflation of the Classical Gorgon and a manifestation of the Celtic god or goddess Sulis, who is presented here perhaps in the guise of a sun god. The purely classical surroundings and the attributes of Minerva are, however, a strong reminder of the Roman take-over. The pediment is truly a brilliant merging of the two traditions and provides a fitting centrepiece for the temple dedicated to Sulis Minerva.

                  If the survival of a large part of the pediment was fortunate, so too was the discovery in 1790 of a number of blocks belonging to the cornice, which surrounded it. All the sections now remaining are richly decorated with a continuous band of flowers, leaves, tendrils and bunches of fruit, reminiscent in some degree of work found in northern and eastern Gaul.

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                  Below the pediment would have been a frieze and architrave supported by the columns of the temple front. The frieze is completely unknown, but in such surroundings it must have been elaborately decorated. There is very little of the architrave, except for one small fragment, again found in 1790, inscribed with the well cut letters VM, 11cms high. It is very tempting to see this as the end of the word TEMPLUM, but unfortunately unless more of it is found the matter will remain unresolved.

                 The columns of the main temple front are known from pieces discovered in 1790, in the spring in 1879 and again in the temple precinct in 1982. The massive, simple Attic bases, fluted shafts and elaborately carved Corinthian capitals, rising to a height of about 8 metres, are grandiose monumental architecture of a kind very rare in Britain. Again, stylistic considerations suggest the hand of an eastern Gaulish master craftsmen. Knowing the proportions of the columns there can be little doubt that the temple was tetrastyle, that is, there were four columns supporting the pediment. This fact, taken together with the width of the pediment, suggests that the whole front would have been about 9 metres wide which exactly fits the estimated width of the podium.

              The columns preserved from 1790 were all hollowed out from behind, leaving a skin barely 15cm thick. This was thought to imply that the surviving fragments were from half or three-quarter columns set back against the wall of the cella, rather than from the main columns of the temple front. However, it is now clear that most of the sculptured fragments found in 1790, including the Gorgon s head pediment, were thinned down soon after discovery by sawing off the backs.

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               The site, to begin with, was Pagan. When Constantine became emporer in 313, he made the Roman Empire Christian. Iconoclastic Christians vandalised the Roman Baths. After Constantine, Julian the apostate takes over and outlaws Christianity and repairs the site. Emeritus dedicated an altar to the emporer and the god. He was a pagan, along with Julian. At the end of the 4th century, the number of coins that were thrown in the Baths went down. This also is because of Christianity. In the last 15 years of the 4th century, they found just 42 coins. In the year 391, Theodosus closed all pagan temples and shrines. If you threw a coin in to the baths, it would be against the law.

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