The Roman Baths for which this southwestern England city is named, are some of the most remarkable Roman ruins outside of Rome itself.
The natural hot springs were used long before the Romans under Emperor Claudius invaded Britain starting in 43 AD. Archaeological evidence shows human activity around the springs dating to 8,000 BC, though the area may have been too hot and swampy for a permanent settlement.
Today, the ruins stand at the center of this historic city of 88,000, located about 90 minutes west of London by train, and draw more than a million people to the charming city. The ruins, much like their counterparts in Rome itself, provide a marvelous insight into the magnificence of the buildings constructed by the Romans.
There are three hot springs beneath the city. The King’s Spring supplies the water to the Roman Baths while the Hetling and Cross springs feed Thermae Bath Spa, a public spa that opened in 2006.
In his Historia Regum Britanniae, now considered a largely fictional account of British History, Geoffrey of Monmouth says British King Bladud built the first baths on the site. Bladud did so, according to the legend, in 863 BC after the springs cured him and his herd of pigs of leprosy by merely wallowing in the warm mud.
Other historical evidence indicates the Celts likely built the first shrine here, dedicating it to the goddess Sulis.
After the Roman conquest, the Romans established the town of Aquae Sulis. The settlement was built as more of a retreat rather than a military town, like so many others formed throughout Britain.
A temple was constructed on the site of the springs between 60-70 AD, and a religious shrine and bathing complex was built on the site — a familiar attraction in cities throughout the Roman Empire.