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The Imperial Baths, Trier

The Imperial Baths – Kaiserthermen -in Trier are the remains of the largest surviving Roman Baths outside Rome. Construction of the Imperial Baths began before 300 and the work can be attributed to Emperor Constantius I who moved his residence to Trier. Existing houses were demolished to make space for the building works. In 316 work came to a halt and unfortunately the baths were never completed.

Visits to the baths were an important part of Roman life, both men and women went regularly to bathe and although they bathed naked they were not always separated. The Imperial Baths were more than just a place for bathing they were part of Roman everyday social life, here they engaged in sports, have a massage, hair removal, be de-loused, visited the hairdressers, as well as take hot or cold baths. As today’s businessmen do much of their business on the golf course, Romans used to conduct business in the baths, they could do a bit of gambling, use the library or even have a drink, so we can see that the Imperial baths were important and much used in Roman society. Incoming cold water was heated in one of six boiler rooms to around 40°C, the hot water was then piped into the three semi-circular pools. An underground heating system heated the floors of the pools as well as the central vaulted hall. The sports grounds were situated outside the buildings. In 353 Magnentius tried to seige the city, in vain, but in 360 Germanic tribes sacked Trier and after this time the Imperial baths were no longer in use, the Emperors Gratian and Valentinian II use them as barracks.

Today the Imperial baths hold a stage, an orchestra and seating for 650 people and hosts theatre and opera performances. Visitors are taken back in time to the Roman era as they take a tour of the Imperial Bath ruins, they will experience the history that is all around them. Since 1986, the Imperial Baths part of the UNESCO world heritage Roman Monuments.

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