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p525 Thermae Constantinianae

Article on pp525‑526 of

Samuel Ball Platner (as completed and revised by Thomas Ashby):
A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome,
London: Oxford University Press, 1929.


Thermae Constantinianae: the last of the great baths of Rome, built by Constantine on the Quirinal, probably before 315 (Aur. Vict. Caes. 40: a quo ad lavandum institutum opus ceteris haud multo dispar; Not. Reg. VI). They suffered greatly from fire and earthquake and were restored in 443 by the city prefect Petronius Perpenna Magnus Quadratianus (CIL VI.1750), at which time it is probable that the colossal statues of the Dioscuri and horses, now in the Piazza del Quirinale, were set up within the thermae (Mitt. 1898, 273‑274; 1900, 309‑310). The only other reference to these baths in ancient literature is in Ammianus Marcellinus (XXVII.3.8: cum collecta plebs infima domum prope Constantinianum lavacrum iniectis facibus incenderat), but they are mentioned in Eins. (1.10; 3.6; 7.11).

They were built in the irregular space between the vicus Longus, the Alta Semita, the clivus Salutis and the vicus laci Fundani, and as this was on a side-hill, it was necessary to make an artificial level, beneath which the ruins of houses of the second, third and fourth centuries have been found (BC 1876, 102‑106; cf. also Domus T. Avidii Quieti (b), Muciani). Because of these peculiar conditions these thermae differed in plan from all others in the city. Enough of the structure was standing at the beginning of the sixteenth century to permit of plans and drawings by the architects of that period, and these are the chief sources of our knowledge of the building (see especially Serlio, Architettura III.92;1 Palladio, Le Terme, pl. XIV; Dupérac, Vestigii, pl. 32; LS III.196‑197; Ant. van den Wyngaerde, BC 1895, pls. VI‑XIII; HJ 439, n131). The remains were almost entirely destroyed in 1605‑1621, when the Palazzo Rospigliosi was built, but some traces were found a century later (BC p5261895, 88; HJ 440, n133), and since 1870 (NS 1876, 55, 99; 1877, 204, 267; 1878, 233, 340).

The baths were oriented north and south (see LF 16) with one principal entrance in the middle of the north side. As the main structure occupied all the space between the streets on the east and west, the ordinary peribolus was replaced by an enclosure that extended across the front and was bounded on the north by a curved line, an area now occupied by the Palazzo della Consulta. The other principal entrance was on the west side, where a magnificent flight of steps led down from the top of the hill to the campus Martius. The frigidarium seems to have had its longer axis north and south instead of east and west, and behind it were tepidarium and caldarium both circular in shape. Because of the comparative narrowness of the building, the ordinary arrangement of the anterooms on each side of the caldarium was not carried out.

Some notable works of art have been found on the site of these thermae, among them the bronze statues of boxer and athlete now in the Museo delle Terme2 (HF 1347, 1350; PT 195‑197; Lanciani, Ancient Rome, frontispiece and pp. 302‑307; NS 1885, 223; Ant. Denk. I. pls. 4, 5); two statues of Constantine, one in the pronaos of the Lateran, and the other in the Piazza del Campidoglio with a statue of his son Constans (CIL VI.1148‑1150; MD 1346; HF I. p411); and some frescoes, till lately in the Palazzo Rospigliosi (Matz-Duhn 4110; PBS VII.40‑44; Mitt. 1911, 149) and now in the Museo delle Terme (BA 1925, 147‑163), which belong to an earlier building, perhaps the Domus Claudiorum (q.v.).

For the thermae in general, see HJ 438‑441; RhM 1894, 389‑392; Jord. II.526‑528; Gilb. III.300; RE IV.962‑963; Reber 496‑500; Canina Ed. IV. pls. 220‑222; Mem. L. 5.xvii.534, 535.


The Authors' Notes:

1 Ed. 1550; in those of 1544 and 1562 the reference is III.88. In all these the thermae are wrongly ascribed to Titus.

2 The torso of the Belvedere should probably be added (HF 124; cf. RhM 1894, 423; Mitt. 1898, 258). It bears the signature of Apollonios, an Athenian artist, whose name has recently been thought to be recognized on the glove of the boxer (Forschungen u. Fortschritte, III.193; Gnomon III.980; AJA 1927, 163; Mem. Am. Acad. VI.133‑136).


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