Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Gilt Bronze Head of the Goddess Sulis Minerva

Head of the goddess Sulis Minerva - www.joyofmuseums.com - Roman Baths (Bath)

Gilt Bronze Head of the Goddess Sulis Minerva

Nearly 2,000 years ago, this golden bronze head graced the “Temple Sulis Minerva” at Bath, England. The Temple Sulis Minerva is one of the few genuinely classical Roman temples to have been discovered in Britain. In pre-Roman times, during the Celtic polytheism practiced in Britain, the goddess Sulis was worshipped at the Bath thermal springs as a local deity. After the Roman invasion, the local goddess was praised by the Romano-British as Sulis Minerva. It is assumed that this is the head of the goddess Sulis Minerva.

The head is slightly larger than life-size and hidden in the hairline are several small holes which once held rivets that fixed her Corinthian helmet to her head. Discovery in 1727 it was an indication that the Roman site at Bath was not a typical settlement. Gilt bronze sculptures are rare finds from Roman Britain. It is assumed to be the head is the cult statue of the goddess, which would have stood within the Temple beside the Sacred Spring. The gilt bronze cult statue of Sulis Minerva was damaged sometime in later Antiquity, perhaps by barbarian raiders or Christian zealots.

Sulis was the local goddess of the thermal springs that still feed the spa baths at Bath, which the Romans called Aquae Sulis (“the waters of Sulis”). Celtic deities often preserved their archaic localization, and they remained associated with a specific place, usually a cleft in the earth, a spring, pool, or well. The Greeks referred to the similarly local pre-Hellenic deities in the local epithets that they assigned, associated with the cult of their Olympian pantheon at certain places.

The first shrine at the site of the hot springs at Bath was built by Celts and was dedicated to the goddess Sulis, whom the Romans identified with Minerva. The name Sulis continued to be used after the Roman invasion, leading to the town’s Roman name of Aquae Sulis “the waters of Sulis.” The temple was constructed in 60–70 AD, and the bathing complex was gradually built up over the next 300 years.

Gilt Bronze Head of the Goddess Sulis Minerva

  • Title:                   Gilt bronze head of the Goddess Sulis Minerva
  • Medium:             Gilded bronze
  • Date:                   1st – 2nd Century AD
  • Museum:             Roman Baths Museum

Exploring the Roman Baths in Bath

A Tour of London’s Museums and Heritage Sites


  • Why did so many ancient cultures empower spiritual qualities to natural thermal springs?


“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”
– Marcus Tullius Cicero


Photo Credit: JOM