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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

The Temple Pediment of the Temple Sulis Minerva at Bath

The Temple Pediment of the Temple Sulis Minerva at Bath - www.joyofmuseums.com - Roman Baths (Bath)

The Temple Pediment of the Temple Sulis Minerva at Bath

This Temple Pediment was once on the front of the “Temple of the Temple Sulis Minerva” at Bath, England and is one of the few genuinely classical temples from Roman Britain to have been discovered. Nearly 2,000 years ago it housed that the statue of the goddess Sulis Minerva. The pediment carries the image of a fearsome head, carved in local Bath stone, which is thought to be the Gorgon’s Head, a potent symbol of the goddess Sulis Minerva.

The pediment is full of allusions and was supported initially by four massive columns. The central image is either a male Gorgon or a representation of a Celtic-Roman water god who looked on to all who entered the temple, with snakes entwined within its beard and portrayed with a heavy moustache. The central head is held aloft by female ‘Victories’, on a shield ringed with oak leaves. The Victories stand on globes and in the corners are Tritons, half-men and half-fish servants of the water god Neptune.

The first shrine, at the site of the hot springs at Bath, was built by Celts and 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.

The Roman Baths at Bath

The Roman Baths complex is a site of a well-preserved ancient Roman public bath and museum. The Roman Baths themselves are below the modern street level. The buildings above street level date from the 19th century. There are four main parts to the complex:

  • the Sacred Spring
  • the Roman Templet
  • the Roman Bath House
  • the museum, holding finds from Roman Bath.

Gilt Bronze Head of the Goddess Sulis Minerva

Nearly 2,000 years ago, a golden bronze head graced the centre of the “Temple Sulis Minerva” at Bath. In pre-Roman times, during the Celtic polytheism practised 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 statue is the head of the goddess Sulis Minerva.

Reflections

  • How did a classical temple of Ancient Rome and Greece end up in England?
  • Is this a male Gorgon or a Celtic-Roman water god?

Exploring the Roman Baths

The Temple Pediment of the Temple Sulis Minerva at Bath

  • Title:             The Temple Pediment of the Temple Sulis Minerva
  • 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 CreJOM

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