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Lepcis Magna: Hadrianic Baths


The tepidarium, Hadrianic Baths, Lepcis Magna. Photo Marco Prins.
Lepcis Magna: Phoenician colony, later part of the Carthaginian empire, the kingdom of Massinissa, and the Roman empire. Its most famous son was the emperor Septimius Severus (193-211).
 
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Hadrianic Baths

The first photp shows the tepidarium, or tepid bath, of the Hadrianic Baths in Lepcis Magna. There were several pools adjacent to it.

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Inscription 599a, Hadrianic Baths, Lepcis Magna. Photo Marco Prins.

One of the banks in the tepidarium has an interesting Latin inscription, known as IRT 599. It is repeated on another bank in Punic (next photot):

IVTTAPH  DOMITIVS  SVFes  De  Pecvnia  Faciendvm  Curavit
AEDILES  Sva  Pecvnia  Dono  Dedervnt

The tepidarium, Hadrianic Baths, Lepcis Magna. Photo Marco Prins. Which means that the suffete(mayor) Iuttaph Domitius ordered something to be made and that the overseers of the market gave it as a present to the city. It is not known what was made and presented, but it is certain that the text refers to something that was built in the second half of the first century, when it was still common to give the mayor a Punic title, and when hybrid names like Iuttaph Domitius were still en vogue. 
Sudatorium, Hadrianic Baths, Lepcis Magna. Photo Jona Lendering. The remains of the semicircular sudatorium, the southernmost room of the bathhouse, during a heavy rain shower. (The photo is a bit out of focus because it was impossible to get rid of the raindrops on the lens.) This was the warm water bath, also known as caldarium. The wall, which was covered with Numidian yellow-red marble, contained windows to let in the sunlight, which must have been closed by small plates of selenite; otherwise, the heat would be lost.
Warm water bath, Hadrianic Baths, Lepcis Magna. Photo Marco Prins. East and west of the tepid bath were two pairs of sweat rooms (laconica). As this photo shows, the floor was raised, which permitted hot air to the circulate beneath. The system was called hypocaustum. The walls were made of hollow bricks (tubuli), which enabled hot air to heat up the wall, similar to the pipes of a modern central heating system.
Warm water bath, Hadrianic Baths, Lepcis Magna. Photo Ab Langereis. The furnaces (praefurnia) were just south of the main complex, and although this position may have facilitated heating the laconica, the owner of the bathhouse must gave found it hard to obtain sufficient wood. This photo shows a bathtub in one of the sweat rooms; the air in the rooms was not dry, but humid. On the next line of photos, the left one shows the tubuli. (c) Ab Langereis
The tubuli in one of the sweat rooms in the Hadrianic Baths in Lepcis Magna. Photo Marco Prins. A mosaic in one of the warm water baths in the Hadrianic Baths, Lepcis Magna. Photo Marco Prins. Part of the marble decoration of one of the warm water baths in the Hadrianic Baths, Lepcis Magna. Photo Marco Prins. One of the toilets in the Hadrianic Baths, Lepcis Magna. Photo Marco Prins.
Western toilet room, Hadrianic Baths, Lepcis Magna. Photo Marco Prins. The second and third photo above show a part of the mosaic and a detail of the splendid decoration of the sweat rooms. The fourth photo shows three lavatory seats in one of the two public toilets. You can easily recognize that the sculptor made a mistake. The photo to the left shows the northeastern public toilet, which may also have been used by the athletes who were exercising in the nearby Palaestra.
Inscription IRT 718, Hadrianic Baths, Lepcis Magna. Photo Marco Prins. The inscription known as IRT 718 mentions
...SIVS  LA..S  ET  IRENE  LIBerta ...
... ET  COMMODVS  E...
which is hard to interpret.
Inscription IRT 393, Hadrianic Baths, Lepcis Magna. Photo Marco Prins. The inscription known as IRT 393 is a stereotypical dedication by the Lepcitanians to the emperor Septimius Severus, made in 203. His name is missing from the damaged first line. It contains the usual titulary (Pius, Pertinax, Augustus, Arabicus, Adiabenicus, Parthicus Maximus) and titles (pontifex maximus, father of the fatherland, eleven times imperator).
A statue of Mars from the Hadrianic Baths in Lepcis Magna. Archaeological Museum of Tripoli (Libya). Photo Jona Lendering.
A statue of Isis from the Hadrianic Baths in Lepcis Magna. Archaeological Museum of Tripoli (Libya). Photo Jona Lendering.
A statue of a sea goddess from the Hadrianic Baths in Lepcis Magna. Archaeological Museum of Tripoli (Libya). Photo Jona Lendering.
A statue of Calliope from the Hadrianic Baths in Lepcis Magna. Archaeological Museum of Tripoli (Libya). Photo Jona Lendering.
The four statues above are now in the National Archaeological Museum in Tripoli. From left to right: the god Mars, the goddess Isis, a water goddess, and Calliope, the Muse of epic poetry. Finally, to the left the splendid statue of Venus. It is a copy from the second century BCE of a famous original by Praxiteles (fourth century BCE), that was already celebrated in Antiquity (cf. the story of the man who well in love with the original statue in Cnidus told by Philostratus in his Life of Apollonius, 6.40). The statue is also known as the Aphrodite of Cnidus (after the location of the original) or Capitoline Venus (because the most famous copy is in Rome's Musei Capitolini).

The Hadrianic Baths were excavated in the 1920's, and the Lepcitanian copy of the Capitoline Venus was taken away to Europe by Mussolini, who gave it to the Nazi-leader Hermann Göring. The statue graced the bedroom of his country estate near Berlinn, Carinhall. It was finally returned to Libya in 1999. and today, it is in the National Archaeological Museum in Tripoli.

Next to the Hadrianic Baths was the Palaestra.
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© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2007
Revision: 1 March 2008
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