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The Sacred Spring Overflow

The Sacred Spring Overflow - Roman Baths (Bath)

The Sacred Spring Overflow

The Sacred Spring Overflow is where surplus mineral-rich water from the hot spring pours into the original Roman drain and flows on to the River Avon. The Roman plumbing and drainage system is still in place and demonstrates the ingenuity of the Roman engineers. Lead pipes were used to carry hot spa water around the site using gravity flow. The thermal waters contain sodium, calcium, chloride and sulphate ions in high concentrations and the mineral deposits can be seen in the colourisation of the stones at this overflow point.

The natural springs in the heart of the city deliver over 1 million litres of mineral-rich water every day. The water which bubbles up from the ground at Bath falls as rain on the nearby hills, which then percolates down through limestone aquifers to a depth of over 2,700 metres (8,900 ft) where geothermal energy raises the water temperature to between 69 and 96 °C (156.2 and 204.8 °F). Under pressure, the heated water rises to the surface along fissures and faults in the limestone.

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.

Roman Public baths originated from a communal need for cleanliness and the health benefits of the hot springs at a time when most houses did not have access to private bathing facilities. In ancient times public bathing included saunas, massages and relaxation therapies. Public baths were restricted depending on social rank and wealth and become incorporated into the social system as meeting places.

The Sacred Spring Overflow

  • Title:                      The Sacred Spring Overflow
  • Medium:               Stone
  • Date:                      100 AD
  • Museum:              Roman Baths Museum

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

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Photo Credit: JOM