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Baiae

The historian Licophrone (3rd century. B.C.) tells us the place name Baiae (Italian: Baia) comes from Baios, helmsman to Ulysses, who died in these waters. However development of the area took place during the roman era. Patricians in republican Rome built splendid villas from the 2nd century B.C. At the beginning of the Imperial age Baiae became the summer residence of roman Emperors. The first emperor, Octavianus Caesar Augustus (27 B.C.-14 A.D), employed the architect Sergius Orata to connect all the villas built in the area and create large, new thermal baths. The imposing nature and splendour of these baths was such that Baiae became known as “little Rome”. Several extensions and modifications were carried out following this by the emperors Nero, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Alexander Severus so that Baiae became an enormous thermal bath city. Today it is possible to visit the parts of this city which have been brought to light. (See also information on Baiae underwater in the “Archaeogical sites” section of this site) Until the age of late-antiquity Baiae was never a city. It lacked all the public buildings typical of an urban area and was administered from the territory of Cuma until the 3rd century A.D. It was rather, an enormous conglomeration of villas, thermal baths and hotels spilling down to the sea after entirely covering the hilly slopes and coastal area immediately behind it. To explain the flourishing centre with its luxurious amenities, Pliny the elder observed that in no other place on earth was there such a variety of waters suited to the curing of so many ailments as in this gulf. The passing of time, bradyseism (with consequent changes in land level) and, not least, modern-day building have eliminated most of the splendid constructions of the time. However the several ruins still visible, although difficult to access and in many cases de-contextualised, are still highly evocative and archaeologically significant.  

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