“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears…”
I begin today with the opening lines of Mark Antony’s speech from Julius Caesar because, like Shakespeare, I have been inspired by the Romans.
I recently visited the ancient Roman city of Bath in Somerset, England. The city became a Roman spa known by the Latin name Aquae Sulis in 60 AD when the Romans discovered hot springs and built baths and a temple in the valley of the River Avon.
Excavation and historical preservation efforts have ensured that the Roman baths are remarkably well preserved, giving one amazing insight into how the Romans lived.
Archaeological evidence shows that the site of the Roman bath’s main spring was dedicated as a shrine to the goddess Sulis, whom the Romans identified with Minerva.
When the Romans arrived in Britain in 43 AD and discovered the natural hot spring– something they had never seen before–they were astonished and believed the spring must have originated from the gods. Hence, they attributed divine properties to both the water and the goddess of the temple.
The Romans wrote messages scratched onto metal to Minerva and tossed them into the baths. Known as “cursed tablets,” the messages were used by people to accuse others of wronging them; they sought justice by naming the suspect on a tablet to be read by the goddess.
Roman doctors prescribed “bathing in the hot waters” as a form of treatment for maladies like arthritis.
The Romans also drank from the waters, believing them to have health benefits, such as curing illness and rejuvenating youth.
The Romans were not entirely erroneous. Spa water analyses have shown that the spring water contains a remarkable amount of minerals that sport health benefits.
Will and I had the chance to taste the water for ourselves!
On our way out, we could not refrain from stopping for scones and crumpets at the magnificent 18th century Pump Room.
As I sat listening to the live pianist, drinking my spa water and nibbling on a crumpet, I imagined myself in a Jane Austen novel waiting for a gentleman to ask for my dance card.
Speaking of Jane Austen, she is another one of Bath’s claims to fame. Jane Austen set two of her six published novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, in Bath and made the city her home from 1801 to 1806.
In Northanger Abbey, Austen writes: ‘They arrived in Bath. Catherine was all eager delight; her eyes were here, there, everywhere, as they approached its fine and striking environs, and afterwards drove through those streets which conducted them to the hotel. She was come to be happy, and she felt happy already.”
Jane often walked along the Royal Crescent, a sweeping crescent of 30 Grade I Listed terrace houses and one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in England. Promenading along the Royal Crescent was a very fashionable thing to do in order to be seen by other members of high society.
We satiated our grumbling stomaches with a visit to Sally Lunn’s Bakery.
Sally Lunn’s Bakery is the oldest house in Bath (c. 1482) and serves the most famous local delicacy, the original ‘Sally Lunn’ Bun. According to legend, Sally Lunn, a French refugee, arrived in 1680 and established her bakery. Today Sally Lunn’s still serves a plethora of buns and allows guests to peek into Sally Lunn’s original kitchen.
Will found that he did not fit particularly well into the house built over 500 years ago…
I, on the other hand, fit perfectly.
We rounded off our trip to Bath by climbing 212 stairs to the top of Bath Abbey.
Founded in the 7th century, Bath Abbey is one of the largest examples of Perpendicular Gothic architecture in England. The Perpendicular Gothic period is the third historical division of English Gothic architecture, and is so-called due to its emphasis on vertical lines.
The first King of all England, King Edgar, was crowned in Bath Abbey in 973. The service performed at Bath Abbey set the precedent for the coronation of all future Kings and Queens of England, including Queen Elizabeth II.
The most intriguing part of our abbey tour was learning about how the bells are rung and getting to stand in the rafters of the cathedral next to the bells (with our hands over our ears) as the bells rang.
And finally, we climbed on the rooftops of Bath Abbey…
This view was our reward:
Now that I am done telling you the tale of my adventure, I think it’s time for a bath…