Once the largest thermal complex in ancient Rome, the Baths of Diocletian have beautifully survived the test of centuries.
They now comprise the Museum of the Baths of Diocletian – one of the 4 locations of the National Roman Museum – as well as the basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri.
More confidential than many of the ancient sites of the Italian capital – such as the Roman Forum , the Baths of Caracalla , the Domus Aurea to name but a few – the Baths of Diocletian are nevertheless worth a visit if you’re staying long enough in the Eternal City.
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Brief history of the Baths of Diocletian
The origins of the Baths of Diocletian
The Baths of Diocletian were built between 298 and 305 AD, under the reign of Maximian, co-emperor of Diocletian (Maximian controled the West of the Empire, Diocletian the East).
The Baths of Diocletian were inspired from the Baths of Caracalla but were twice as large. They extended over no less than 14 hectares / 35 acres, and remained the largest spa complex ever built under ancient Rome.
According to Roman custom, the baths included a caldarium (a hot room), a tepidarium (a warm room), a frigidarium (a cold room), as well as a natatio (a swimming pool), not to mention a library and vast gardens. The thermal baths were supplied with water by one of the city’s many aqueducts.
The decline of the Baths of Diocletian
The Baths of Diocletian remained in activity for over three centuries. In the 6th century AD, the Goth invaders cut off the Roman aqueducts and the thermal baths of the Italian capital fell into disuse.
Like many ancient sites, the Baths of Diocletian were used as a quarry whose materials were looted and reused for new constructions.
The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri
In the 16th century, at the request of Pope Pius IV, Michelangelo converted part of the old Roman baths into a basilica.
Dedicated to the Christian martyrs who worked on the construction of the thermal baths some 12 centuries earlier, the basilica is located in the former frigidarium (cold room), tepidarium (warm room) and natatio (swimming pool) of the thermal baths.
The Baths of Diocletian and the National Roman Museum
In 1899, the National Roman Museum moved into the Baths of Diocletian. The museum aimed to bring together ancient works and sculptures discovered in the Italian capital and its surroundings.
The collections were enriched over the years to such an extent that the Baths of Diocletian became too cramped to store and exhibit all the collections of the National Roman Museum.
The National Roman Museum’s collections were therefore divided and are exhibited today in 4 different locations: the Baths of Diocletian, the Palazzo Altemps, the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme and the Crypta Balbi.
🚃 Termini Station 🚃
The water that supplied the thermal baths during Antiquity was stored in a vast reservoir called the “ botte di Termini ”. The was destroyed in the second half of the 19th century to make room for the construction of the famous Termini station, which is therefore named after this ancient reservoir.
Visiting the Baths of Diocletian
Today, the Baths of Diocletian comprise two sites:
- The Museum of the Baths of Diocletian (Museo nazionale delle Terme)
- The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri (Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels)
The Museum of the Baths of Diocletian
Visitors can discover the remains of the impressive thermal complex (in particular the apodyterium (the changing room) and the atrium), as well as a beautiful collection of statues and ancient works of art.
The museum’s cloister – attributed to Michelangelo – is an absolute gem!
The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri
The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri still displays many of the original architectural elements of the Baths of Diocletian.
The Basilica is also home to the Meridian of Bianchini, an astronomical meridian line dating from the 18th century. More or less similar to a sundial, it measures solar elevation and time of year.
Getting to the Baths of Diocletian
The Baths of Diocletian are located a stone’s throw from Piazza della Repubblica and Termini station, served by metro lines A and B as well as numerous bus lines.
Unlimited access to public transport is included in the Roma Pass and Omnia Card.
👉 More info: Roma Pass / Omnia Card
Opening hours of the Baths of Diocletian
The Baths of Diocletian are open from Tuesday to Friday from 2 to 7.45 p.m., as well as on weekends from 10.30 a.m. to 7.45 p.m.
Admission tickets to the Baths of Diocletian
Admission tickets are €13 at full price, €2 for European nationals aged 18 to 25 and free for European nationals under 17 and over 65. The admission ticket also provides access to the other three locations of the National Roman Museum: Palazzo Altemps, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme and Crypta Balbi.
FYI, the entrance to the National Roman Museum is included in the Roma Pass.
👉 More info here
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