Baths of Diocletian, 1774

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Bathing was a popular public activity in ancient Rome. In the year 298 CE, Emperor Maximian commissioned a grand bathing complex to honor his coruler, Diocletian. It took eight years for 10,000 Christian slaves to complete the enormous marble-clad brick structure. Here Piranesi shows us the remains of the frigidarium, where bathers gathered to cool themselves after washing in hot pools. The room was a whopping 840 by 480 feet (over five times larger than an Olympic-sized pool), not surprising considering that the baths could accommodate 3,000 people at one time. As it happened, Emperor Diocletian never saw the baths—he was so busy administering and soldiering in far-flung territories that he never even made it to Rome. He also proved himself something of an ingrate by forcing Emperor Maximian to abdicate.

Baths of Diocletian
Artist Life
Italian, 1720–1778
Accession Number
Catalogue Raisonne
Hind 115 i/iii
Curator Approved

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