Baths of Constantine (Rome)
Construction and plan
The last of Rome's bath complexes, they were constructed in the irregular space between the vicus Longus, the Alta Semita, the clivus Salutis and the vicus laci Fundani, and as this was on a side-hill, it was necessary to demolish 4th-century houses then on the site (beneath which are ruins of second- and third-century houses) and make an artificial level over their ruins. Because of these peculiar conditions these thermae differed in plan from all others in the city - no anterooms were provided on either side of the caldarium, for instance, since the building was too narrow. The building was oriented north-south so as to heat it using the sun, with principal entrances on the west side, with a flight of steps down from the hill's summit to the campus Martius, and on the middle of the north side.
As the main structure occupied all the space between the streets on the east and west, the ordinary peribolus was replaced by an enclosure across the front which was bounded on the north by a curved line, an area now occupied by the Palazzo della Consulta. The frigidarium seems to have its longer axis north and south instead of east and west, and behind it were tepidarium and caldarium both circular in shape.
The only reference to these baths in ancient literature is in Ammianus Marcellinus, though they are mentioned in Eins. 1.10; 3.6; 7.11.
The baths suffered greatly from fire and earthquake in the century after their construction and were restored in 443 by the city prefect Petronius Perpenna Magnus Quadratianus, at which time it is probable that the colossal statues of the Dioscuri and horses, now in the Piazza del Quirinale, were set up within them. The Baths of Constantine probably remained in use until the Gothic War (535–554) when the aqueducts were cut off by the Ostrogoths.
Enough of the structure was standing at the beginning of the sixteenth century to permit of plans and drawings by the architects of that period, and these are the chief sources of our knowledge of the building. The remains were almost entirely destroyed in 1605‑1621 during the construction of the Palazzo Rospigliosi, but some traces were found a century later, and since 1870. Some of these can now be seen beneath the Palazzo's casina.
Notable art works were found on the site of these thermae, among them
- The bronze statues of a boxer and an athlete now in the Octagonal aula of the National Roman Museum
- Two statues of Constantine, one now housed in the pronaos of the Lateran, and the other in the Capitoline Museums with a statue of his son Constans
- Frescoes, in the Palazzo Rospigliosi until c.1929 and now in the Museo delle Terme - these belong to an earlier building, perhaps the Domus Claudiorum.
- For the thermae in general, see HJ 438‑441; RhM 1894, 389‑392; Jord. II.526‑528; Gilb. III.300; RE IV.962‑963; Reber 496‑500; Canina Ed. iv. pls. 220‑222; Mem. L. 5.xvii.534, 535.
- , from Platner's Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome
- Aur. Vict. Caes. 40: a quo ad lavandum institutum opus ceteris haud multo dispar; Not. Reg. VI
- BC 1876, 102‑106; cf. also Domus T. Avidii Quieti (b), Muciani
- xxvii.3.8: cum collecta plebs infima domum prope Constantinianum lavacrum iniectis facibus incenderat
- CIL VI.1750
- Mitt. 1898, 273‑274; 1900, 309‑310
- See especially Serlio, Architettura iii.92;1 Palladio, Le Terme, pl. XIV.; Dupérac, Vestigii, pl. 32; LS III.196‑197; Ant. van den Wyngaerde, BC 1895, pls. VI.-xiii.; HJ 439, n131
- BC p5261895, 88; HJ 440, n133
- NS 1876, 55, 99; 1877, 204, 267; 1878, 233, 340
- CIL VI.1148‑1150; MD 1346; HF I. p411
- Matz-Duhn 4110; PBS VII.40‑44; Mitt. 1911, 149
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