The Public Baths


The Palace
The Public Baths
The Market
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 SOUTH BATHS : Another large and well preserved building among the ruins of Bosra, and one also so completely hidden by modern constructions that it has been scarcely noticed by travellers, is the great structure in concrete faced with ashlar, which lies almost due south of the Nymphaeum, and which I have called the South Baths to distinguish it from other buildings in the ruins which undoubtedly served the same purpose. Completely surrounded by modern houses, and divided within into no less than five separate habitations which have no intercommunication, it is extremely difficult to explore. It is impossible to realize that the separate parts compose a single whole, until one mounts to the roof of one of the vaulted chambers, and observes the entire outline of the building from one spot. And it would never have been possible to measure and to reconstruct the plan of the building if the owners of the present houses inside the ancient baths had not been exceedingly polite and hospitable. The plan (111. 230) is T form, with the main entrance in the foot of the T, toward the north, not far from the main east-and-west street of the city, with which it was probably connected by a short colonnaded street of its own. The ground plan does not resemble that of any other baths that I have known in Syria; but the water conduits along the top of its walls, the perpendicular grooves for water pipes in all the wall surfaces, and the double faced walls with heating flues between, all bear witness to the original purpose of the building, and render the plan all the more interesting. The entrance was dignified by an octastyle porch, of which one column is preserved, extending across the entire facade. It consists of two arched portals with a niche between them and one on either side. Within these portals was the main hall of the baths - the apody-teriuin - (N in Plan) an octagonal chamber slightly oblong (15 m. x 12.75 m0 with deep semicircular niches occupying its four oblique sides, rectangular arched recesses in its east and west sides, the entrance in its north side, and an arch on the remaining side leading into the next chamber. Every angle carries a groove for a pipe. This great hall (111. 231) is perfectly preserved but for its vault the entire crown of which has fallen in, and for the break in the wall which converted the arched recess on the west side into an entrance.

 It serves to day as a cattle pen, and the two portals lead into houses built in the ancient porch. The next chamber (O) is a rectangle terminating at the east and west in deep arched recesses almost as broad as the chamber itself. These two apartments complete the leg of the T. The middle chamber between the cross arms (S) is also oblong, and had a great window to the south. The arms are identical in plan, but differ slightly in measurements. Each has three rooms, a square chamber with deep recesses to north and south (R) and (T), a narrow oblong room (P and V) in the ends of the arms, and, to the south of this, a small chamber (p) and (u) in the angle, the western one of which seems to have been a vestibule. Of these (P)and (p) are inhabited,  the original east wall having given place to  a modern wall,
 and the arch between (P) and (R) having been closed also with a crude wall of recent construction. The square chamber (R) retains its original vault, and is used by the Mudir of Bosra as a store house for tibn, or chopped straw. Rooms (S) and (T) are used to house cattle, and there is a small hovel in the doorway between them; while (V) and (u), like the corresponding rooms at the opposite end, having their vaults intact, are inhabited.

Section A-B (111. 230) and the left hand side of Section C-D (PI. XIII) show the main hall in restored form. The drawing of the restoration consisted simply in the representing of plaster upon the walls, for which there is ample evidence, and the completion of the curves of the vault. The extent of the standing parts of the vault is shown by a dotted line on either side. This vault, or, perhaps better, eight-sided dome, was a remarkable piece of

 construction. It was built of the usual material for vaults in the Haurān, i. e. volcanic scoriae set in hard mortar. Its plan was irregular, having two opposite sides longer than the other sides, and its form was extremely low and flat, each segment being part of an ellipse with its major axis horizontal. The section on the minor axis (C-D) presents no very unusual aspect, but that on the major axis (A-B) appears to have been something of a tour de force;  for the  crown of the  dome isnearly  flat; yet the curves of all the preserved portions, when produced, can be made to give no other result.

  The opening that I have placed in the centre of the crown is taken from a similar feature in the only vault in this building that is still in place. The vaulting of chambers (O) and (S) is shown in Section C-D (PI. XIII)-, both were certainly covered with tunnel vaults, lying east and west and having windows in the lunettes below them, although nothing remains above the springing of these vaults and the ledges of the windows. Chamber (O) has a deep recess at either end, covered with a tunnel vault the crown of which reaches up to the springing of the high vault. The walls of this chamber were faced up with thin slabs of basalt with a space for heating flues behind them; while chamber (S), if my notes and original drawings are correct, has neither heating flues nor water conduits in its walls. The drawing, Section E-F in Plate XIII, gives a restoration of the vault system of the long row of chambers, (P), (R), (S), (T) and (V), at the south. The narrow apartment (P) is covered by a great tunnel vault of slabs laid upon the arches which flank it. The curves of this vault leave room at either end for a small upper chamber at the north, and a chamber larger than (P) above that room on the south. The vault of (R) is intact. It is a perfect example of the cloistered vault, or square dome, a form of vault rarely found in extant examples in Syria or elsewhere. It is composed of light volcanic scoriae set in good mortar, it has a square opening at the crown, now covered with branches of wood, reeds, straw and earth. Though this sky-light may have had a frame of metal or of wood, it has none now; for the ragged edges of the opening are entirely exposed. (T) seems to have corresponded in all respects to (R); but (V) is wider than (P), though it was similarly vaulted, and it had an arched entrance to the north where (P) has a very thick and unbroken wall. The little chamber (u) seems to have been a vestibule; for it has an entrance to the south ; it also had more than one storey; while the corresponding little apartment (p) appeal's to have a thick unbroken wall. But since it is inhabited, is dark, and has mud plaster upon its walls, it may be that an entrance here has been closed by its present occupants. A flight of corbelled stairs leads to the roof at the west side of chamber (u). The heavier walls of this entire building are standing, and the arches which bounded almost every compartment and carried the vaults are also in place; but the thin walls, or screens, which closed the spaces under the arches have been, in most cases, removed to their foundations. These are shown in hatched lines in the plan. They constituted the side walls of many of the chambers, and, of course, contained the windows, but being lightly built they were readily carried away for later building operations. Only one has been preserved, - that at the south side of the vaulted chamber (R) - and this is plastered with mud on the outside, and is almost buried in straw on the interior; but from what I could observe in the semi-darkness, the window appears to have been filled with a grille of stone work, like a simple window sash. The thin wall at the opposite side of the chamber has been rebuilt in modern times." I have restored these walls with windows in them in all the larger spaces. The windows shown in the restorations of the spaces below the tunnel vaults are based upon window sills, or bevelled ledges, that are still in place.
Water conduits lined with the best opus signinum were carried around the top of the walls on all sides and upon the partition walls. Vertical grooves for water pipes are to be found in the walls of all the larger chambers, excepting only (S). In the octagonal chamber these were placed in the angles, were cylindrical in form, and were concealed beneath the plaster; in other chambers the vertical conduits were of rectangular section, and probably carried cylindrical pipes of terra cotta. Heating flues were found in the walls of (O), and fragments of marble, which I take to have been panelling, were found in (S). I doubt if it is possible from the plans herewith presented, and from the data given above, to identify the purpose of the various compartments of these baths with any certainty. There can be very little doubt that (N) was the apodyterium, and (S), if it has no flues for heating, was probably the frigidarium. Since (O) has heating flues it may have been a tepidarium. This arrangement would leave the two domed chambers (R) and (T) for caldaria, and the smaller rooms for sudatoria. The fact that (T) and (R) were separated from (S) by partition walls with small doorways in them probably indicates that they were to be kept warmer; but it would seem unusual, and perhaps not altogether convenient, to have the frigidaruim placed in such a position, with reference to the other parts of the bath, that it would of necessity have been the only means of communication between the tepidarium and the caldaria.
The construction of baths is generally so different from that of buildings of other kinds, and there is so little of ornamental detail about them, that it is never easy to determine their date if inscriptions and other dateable evidence are wanting. Fragments of inscriptions have been found built into its walls; but I believe these were, in every case, late walls erected to close the open spaces below the great arches. The building is undoubtedly of the Roman period of the second or third century, and may be as late even as the beginning of the fourth century; but I should not attempt to give it a date within these two hundred and fifty years.

Central baths

CENTRAL BATHS : This caption has been introduced to explain an error of mine which was reproduced in the Plan of Bosra before I had discovered it. The building west of the Market, given the title "Central Bath" in the map, is not an independent building as I originally supposed it to be, but was connected with the Khan id-Dibs, or Market, as an integral part of that building. The connexion between the two parts of the building was not apparent until the plans were finally drawn, owing to the presence of modern constructions between them. The presence of vertical grooves, like those seen in baths, in one section of the ruined building, suggested that the structure was part of a bath. I now believe that these perpendicular grooves were used for some, other purpose, perhaps to conduct water to a fountain in the Market.

North Baths

NORTH BATHS : Near the north wall there are remains of a large building which was undoubtedly another public bath. The ruins cover a large area in the midst of cultivated gardens, but only one small section is standing. This is a four-part vault of masonry supported by four stout angle piers (111. 232) with perpendicular grooves for water conduits on their inner faces. To the east of this is a large mound made up of fallen vaulting; but all the quadrated building stones have long since been carried away. No ground plan can possibly be traced here without excavations. The vault construction and the water conduits of the standing part are sufficiently like those of the South Baths to warrant the assumption that the two buildings belonged to the same epoch. The condition of this ruin, which has served for centuries as a quarry, makes it clear that the ancient buildings, in order to be preserved, must be located in some wholly deserted place or be inhabited from generation to generation .

Northwest  Baths

NORTHWEST BATHS. Less than 50 metres to the southwest of the standing vault of the North Baths I found, in 1909, two small apartments that had recently been excavated by the natives. The walls, about 2 m. high, had rectangular grooves and cylindrical conduits at frequent intervals, which suggest that these also are remains of a bath. It is of course not impossible that this structure belonged to the North Baths; but, because no connexion was visible, I have treated it as a separate building. The construction is, for the most part, in concrete doublefaced with blocks of basalt for

which the natives were excavating; but the wall between the two chambers was built, in part at least, of brick. The plan (111. 233), so far as it has been revealed by the excavators, consists of two rectangular rooms, the more easterly of which. terminates in a niche, or exedra, almost as wide as the room itself. There are unmistakable traces of other apartments to the north and west of these two, but none has been revealed in the direction of the North Baths, though excavations in that direction might bring them to light.

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