Welcome to the Roman Baths Blog!

This blog is a behind the scenes look at the Roman Baths in Bath. We hope you enjoy reading our stories about life surrounding the Roman Baths.



Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Debasement and deception: The 3rd Century crisis and the Beau Street Hoard.


The Roman Empire has always been famous for the monuments of Rome and a prosperous Empire, spanning most of modern Europe and the Mediterranean. So it is surprising to know that, in the 3rd Century AD, a very serious financial crisis took place, caused by prolonged civil wars and invasions. The Beau Street Hoard contains coins from a long date range (32 BC - 275 AD) and so it tells the story of this crisis.

At the start of the Roman Empire the metal used to make coins was of very high quality. The silver coins issued by early Emperors (such as Augustus and Tiberius) contain around 98-100% silver. As time wore on however, the cost of maintaining a huge Empire put financial strain on the Emperors. Base metals, such as iron and copper, were added to the silver to make it less pure and cheaper to produce. This process is called debasement. By the start of the 3rd Century AD, only around 40% silver was being used to produce the main denomination of the period, known as the
radiate. 

Things only got worse as the 3rd Century progressed. The Romans faced threats from both the Northern and Eastern Frontiers. The Northern frontier provinces, Gaul and Britain, even formed a breakaway Empire. Severe financial strain, caused by the cost of wars on the frontiers, meant that the silver content of the radiate was reduced to less than 10%. Images of coins from the Beau Street Hoard show a timeline of debasement in the Roman Empire.

Timeline of debasement – left to right
50s A.D. Nero denarius90% silver
190s-200s A.D. Septimius Severus denarius65% silver
250s A.D. Trajan Decius radiate40% silver
260s A.D. Gallienus radiate20% silver
270s A.D. Tetricus I radiate: 1-2% silver


As well as debased coins, unofficial copies of the radiate are frequently found in Britain. These coins are known as barbarous radiates. The production of copies had always been a problem in the Roman Empire, but by the mid-3rd Century AD it had become endemic. Presumably, when official supplies ran low, coins were produced locally to meet demand.

There are examples of barbarous radiates from the Beau Street hoard and images taken by the Roman Baths U3A volunteers show just how different these copies were. As well as being smaller and thinner, barbarous radiates also have very poor quality images and inscriptions. It’s a wonder anyone was fooled at all!

An official coin of the Emperor Claudius II and an unofficial copy (right) from the Beau St Hoard. This particular coin was issued after the death of Claudius in 270 AD and the reverse shows an altar.


An official coin of the Emperor Quintillus (270 AD) and an unofficial copy (right) from the Beau St Hoard. The reverse of the coins shows Pax (Peace) holding a branch and caduceus.


Emma, Future Curator

Monday, 1 December 2014

Greek coinage at the Roman Baths


Ancient Greek coinage had been in use for around six centuries before Greece became part of the Roman Empire. Hand made in the same way Roman coins are (struck using a cast die), these coins had a variety of images and symbols which can be connected to Greek Heroes and Gods. This symbolism could be used to prove an individuals power and right to rule within the ancient world.

For my Money Monday handing session in the summer, I chose to focus on Greek coinage and connections that could be found to Alexander the Great (356-323 BC). Son of Phillip II of Macedon and part of the Argead dynasty, Alexander became king at 20 years old and ruled one of the largest ancient empires by the age of 30. Covering an area of 2,000,000 sq mi, Alexanders empire included modern day Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Iraq and covered an area as far east as India. Greek influence  in these areas would last for 200-300 years after Alexanders death.


This map shows the extent of Alexanders empire before his death in 323 BC.


The Greek coins within the Roman Baths collection show a rich variety of connections to Alexander the Great and a number were selected to use during the handling session. Key themes included Alexander's connection to the hero Heracles; who the Argead dynasty claimed to be descended from, Alexander's connection to Zeus and his deification in Egypt and the spread of Hellenistic culture across his empire.

The coins often show  the image of Alexander wearing the skin of a lion, portraying himself in the image of Heracles after he slew the Nemean lion.  The lion is a recurring theme and can be seen on a number of the coins within the Roman Baths collection 


Hemistater of Macedon with lions head

The next coin that was used for the handling session shows Alexander as a God. Pronounced a son of Amun in Egypt by the oracle, Alexander referred to Zeus-Ammon as his true father. The ram horns seen on the first image are a symbol of his divinity. The writing on the reverse (second image) shows this was a coin of  King Lysimachus of Thrace who came to rule part of Alexander's Empire after his death. The use of the image of Alexander was used by Lysimachus to show his right to rule during the war of the  diadochi or successors.




When looking at the coinage of an individual, it can tell us a lot about their personality and what they see or think of themselves. This makes this type of coinage invaluable to our understanding of the period. 

Rachel

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Money Mondays: Commemorative Coinage


Beau the Hippo has become the emblem of the Beau Street Hoard, and we’ve learnt how a Hippo ended up on a Roman coin from an early blog post by Susan which you can read here.

A  Hippo was just one of a number of animals depicted on coins by Philip I in 248AD to commemorate 1000 years since the founding of Rome. These animals were brought to Rome to be part of a series of games held for the anniversary in arenas, such as the Coliseum, around Rome. Other coins from the anniversary show the legend associated with the founding of Rome, of twins Romulus and Remus being nursed to health by a She-Wolf.

Taking this concept of coins commemorating specific events or occasions I decided to investigate what other coins there might be in the Roman Baths collection that are commemorative or celebrating key events for my Money Mondays display.

What I discovered while going through the collections database was a whole range of coins and medals that had been used to commemorate events, anniversaries or people.

As the Royal Mint are the body permitted to manufacture, or mint, the coins of the UK, commemorative souvenirs have been a popular way of marking Royal events such as Jubilees for the last three centuries. My display included a whole range of Royal events, from a coin celebrating the birth of James II in 1633 right up to a very shiny five pound coin for Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, with a few coronations and deaths in between! Key moments in battles and important treaties can also be found on coins. Two examples I chose for display included the Treaty of Paris in 1814 and a striking medal of the Duke of Wellington for the Battle of Waterloo!

I even discovered some medals commemorating local events in Bath such as Queen Charlotte’s visit in 1817 which brought my research to the Records Office to read through some issues of the Bath Chronicle from the time.

The display generated a lot of interest on the night and I particularly enjoyed being able to display items from 248AD right up to 2012 which all connected! The variety of coins from different centuries and eras helped to contextualise the Beau Street Hoard coins in a new way too!




Holly Furlong, Leicester Placement Student


Thursday, 11 September 2014

Mint innit - How was money made?

One of the questions the Collections staff and volunteers are frequently asked during a Beau Street Hoard event is ‘how are coins made’? So when I was asked to put together one of the Money Monday handling sessions I thought it would be a good time to have a look in more detail at The Roman Baths collection of Roman and Medieval coins, how they were made, who made them and where this happened.

Texts from the Roman and Medieval period give little away when it comes to making coins and so archaeology has been used to help recreate some of the process. The first step was to produce a blank coin by pouring molten metal into a circular mould. Once the blank was cool enough, the design for the coin would be stamped onto the blank using dies (punches). The metal would be heated so that it was malleable and the coin placed in between two dies, which would then be struck with a hammer.

The Roman Baths have their very own coin die and blanks to strike coins.


So who made coins and where did this happen? Roman coins were initially produced in Rome by a set of three magistrates. As the Empire began to expand more mints were created and others were closed down. The collection at The Roman Baths comes from far and wide. There is even a coin that was made in Constantinople (modern Istanbul, Turkey).

A map showing where the Beau Street Hoard coins were made

Medieval coins were initially made across England and Wales by individuals known as moneyers. You may be able to see on the map that there was even a mint at Bath. The earliest coins known to have been struck at Bath were issued by Edward the Elder (AD899-924/5) and the mint remained in use until the late 12th Century.

A map showing mint towns during the period c.973-1158
© Martin Allen 2012
There were however, many changes made to the production of coins during the Medieval period. In the 13th Century mints were placed under the control of officials known as masters and wardens. There was also a radical reduction of mint towns during the 13th and 14th Century and, by the 15th Century, the only regularly functioning mint was in London.

Emma, Future Curator










Monday, 1 September 2014

Roman Society Museum Internship Bursary


During the end of final year at the University of Exeter I applied to the Roman Society, UK for their Museum Internship Bursary. The bursary is offered as part of a 3 - week placement which takes place at the available museums and covers travel expenses for the whole placement. The aim of the scheme is to give the successful applicant’s museum and collections experience.

My application was successful and I was selected as one of six out of 80 applications for the scheme. The Roman Baths Museum was my museum of choice and they selected me to work in their collections department; in order for me to expand my experience in post-excavation archaeological work because I already have a lot of experience working in the field on archaeological sites, both in the UK and abroad.

Through the internship I have been able to have a detailed insight into archaeological and museum systems outside excavations and have been able to experience a number of different parts of Museum work:
What it is like to catalogue and archive objects (such as the Beau Street Roman Coin Hoard which is currently being catalogued, archived and prepared for storage and display at the Roman Baths and being prepared for Road shows later this year);
Individually archive and catalogue an archaeological site which had come into the Roman Baths Museum from the local county;
Correctly organise and input all the data from the coin hoard into a central database;
Plan and run exhibitions/ events and see just how much time and planning needs to go into each; including running my own display event on Money Monday at the Baths;
Assist Museum staff and visitors on the pre-booked Tunnel Tours of the Roman Baths.

My time at the Roman Baths and the experience I’ve gained here will be extremely valuable to both myself as an individual and my appreciation of museum work as well as providing me with further opportunities in Archaeology and Museum worlds.


Me, Katy and Emma showing off the Beau Street Hoard staff t-shirts at a Conservation Evening
Matthew Batchelor



































Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Designer at the Baths

 I’m Christopher, a recent Textile Design Graduate of Bath School of Art and Design, and Ancient Textile Researcher who is a regular volunteer. During the past two years here at the Roman Baths, the building and its collection has provided a wonderful wealth of inspiration for my work.
 I am a keen student of both history and design, constantly looking for ways to combine the two subjects coherently; with the help of the Roman Baths I have successfully discovered my niche as an Ancient Textile Researcher. During the final year of my degree, the ‘Developing Textile design’ module gave me the opportunity to produce a collection of woven textile samples inspired by Roman mosaics.
 
Woven sample based on Mosaics
 Using a variety of different mosaics, to explore the geometric patterns of Roman mosaics, to develop a series of ‘colour and weave’ patterns to weave cloth samples. The mosaics include two from the Roman Baths collection, the geometric mosaic floor from Weymouth House, Bath and the mosaic from the Keynsham Roman Villa.

Exploring Geometric patterns: the Weymouth House mosaic, now in store

Through a series of observational drawing I broke down the mosaics into re-occurring patterns, developing them into repeatable weave blocks to weave the samples.


Observational drawing of the mosaic
 Preparing for my Graduate Show, I returned to the Roman Baths again, this time taking a series of photographs of the exterior of the building, while there was scaffolding all over the building to do maintenance of the Pump Room roof. I used the juxtaposition of the scaffolding over the windows and columns of the building, to create a series of tartans and checks. This was done by breaking them down into blocks of colour and lines created by the overlaying features of the building.
 
Breaking down images into colour and lines
Alongside the module I experimented with natural dyes, to discover the effect of dyeing natural coloured wool on the depth of colour produced during the dye process. Trying to keep to similar colours to what would have been available to the Romans; therefore I used Madder (Rubia Tinctorum), Weld (Reseda Luteola) and Indigo (Indigofera Tintoria).
NB. Even the chalk used in the dye process, is from the Baths (used in conservation, as sacrificial mortaring in the pavement around the Great bath.)
 
Natural Dye Experiments
The module concluded with the presentation of my work in the Textile Design Degree Show at Bath School of Art and Design in June 2014, where I created a gallery space, that combined aspects of research and design.

Final Degree Show

Samples from Final Degree Show
To see more of my textile design work and/or my ancient textile research, you can find me on my blog: Christopherleedesigns.wordpress.com




I

Monday, 25 August 2014

Money Mondays: Septimius Severus coins

Beyond the most familiar use, can you imagine in which way can a coin be used? It can be used, for example, to illustrate history.

During the Roman Empire coins were a means of propaganda and celebration of dynasties as well. Roman Emperors had always used coins to promote themselves, representing their victories and their relatives also through symbolism.

For my Money Monday handling table I chose to use coins from the Beau Street Hoard to look at Lucius Septimius Severus  who achieved several victories during his reign. One of the most important ones was against the Parthian Empire, the archenemy of the Roman Empire for centuries. This achievement was so important for the Empire and for Severus' dynasty that, in order to celebrate this big happening, a monumental triumphal arch was built in the Roman Forum in Rome and several celebratory coins were minted all over the Empire. Some of these represented the Parthian victory and the greatness of Roman Empire containing some well-known symbols to deliver the message.


The Winged Victory

The Nike (the winged Victory) symbolized the good result in a war or campaign as well as some Goddesses such as Minerva which was the Goddess of Strategy.



Minerva, the Goddess of strategy


Severus was one of the Roman Emperors declared by the army. This element of his personal story is also present in the coinage of his age. The number of coins minted under his reign was increased because of some reforms to improve the military life. In fact, he promised to his loyal legions an increase in salary and a better quality of life. For this reason  a greater production of coins was needed. The symbolism related to the army was on several of these coins.



Eagle with open wings, symbol of Roman Army

Another key-element of coinage of Severus was his desire to make and promote his imperial dynasty as one of the most ancient ones. He celebrated his sons, Geta and Caracalla, and his second wife, Julia Domna.

Julia Domna, as a Roman woman and an Emperor’s wife, was represented as Roman Goddesses such as Venus, Juno, and Diana, but also as Pietas and Pudicitia, the deifications of important values such as chastity and respect for gods, nation and family.


Julia Domna as Pudicitia

Coins can be read as a book focusing on someone’s life, where the obverse is the title and the reverse is the chapter, condensed in one meaningful and allegoric image.

 Eufemia Iannetti (MA Leicester)




Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Beau Street Hoard & The U3A: The Story So Far…

One of the activities in the Heritage Lottery funded Beau Street Hoard Project is photography of the hoard, by members of local U3A groups.

In order that the coins can be identified, they are first being accessioned in to the Roman Baths Museum collection. This includes individually packing each coin identified by the British Museum, and assigning it a unique number. As every one of the 17,577 coins in the hoard need an individual number, this is a somewhat daunting task, currently being carried out by a wide range of our collections volunteers (all 13 of them) and placements.

 All 775 coins from Bag 5 individually numbered and stored

Once individually packed and numbered, the next stage in the process is the photography and weighing of the coins. It is for this stage of work, which we have enlisted the help of U3A volunteers.

 U3A volunteers photographing and weighing the coins
In teams of three, they are photographing the coins; including the accession number, for identification purposes, the obverse (heads) side, and the reverse (tails) side. Along the way they are having, to get used to identifying the images on either side of the coin, so that each photograph accurately displays the coin.

Three images are taken for every coin

Once photographed, they are also weighing the coins, the recording of this information being crucial to identifying coins.

To date, 3229 coins have been photographed and weighed. This includes the entirety of Bags 5, 6, 7 and 8. The contents of these four bags are a good representation of coins from the hoard, denarii, radiates and debased radiates.

Bags 5 and 6 are the best examples of silver coins from the hoard, so they were nice coins to get the U3A started on, however, it wasn’t long before they had to move on to doing the considerably less shiny coins from Bags 7 and 8, and they are doing a sterling job in photography what are some rather nasty coins.

Some rather nasty coins from Bag 7


The rate at which the coins are being photographed and the speed at which the U3A volunteers are learning to recognise the reverses of coins has been unprecedented, and so work on Bag 2 has already started while we have other volunteers working through getting the rest of it numbered.

 Bag 2 all bagged up and waiting to be numbered



With work soon to recommence on getting the rest of the hoard identified at the British Museum, it hopefully won’t be long until we are working our way through the rest of the hoard too!

Verity

Monday, 18 August 2014

Matt’s Money Monday

Before the Event:

Money Mondays is one of many regular events that occur at the Roman Baths and are included in the wider Roman Baths Museum. This event particularly focuses on a different aspect of money each Monday.  

For my individual display, I chose to focus my attention to the Gods, Goddesses and Heroes who are depicted on Roman coinage. I realised I would be able to intertwine with The Beau Street Coin Hoard which the Roman Baths are currently cleaning (with the British Museum), recording, cataloguing, storing and displaying.

I wanted to exhibit selected deities found on a small number of the coins. This was done through an informative display and pairing activity. There was also opportunity to observe the coins through a magnifying glass.  

The display involved a lot of background preparation:

1.The selection of visually appropriate coins from the hoard.   
2.Creation of the correct display packaging for each coin.
3.Extensive background research, making sure all the information was relevant and accessible.
4. Writing the information displays in such a way that they had enough detailed information to educate people who were interested but they were easy to read for both English and Non-English speaking people.
5. The display had to be prepared in such a way as to be aesthetically pleasing as well as being informative and easy to understand.
6. Ensuring all the correct materials and equipment were at the right place at the right time in accordance with the event times.  
1
Discussing the detail on the coins





After the Event

The event was very successful, even though it was a fairly quiet evening, nearing 100 people came up to the display between 6pm - 8pm and actively engaged in conversation about the display and about the coin hoard and its current story.


It was a massive learning curve for me to see how displays and exhibitions are put together from the very beginning and just how much time and effort needs to go into them in order to make people engage and provide opportunities for them.

There were defiantly areas for improvement on the display, which were only realized once the display was setup (such as font/paragraph size and the grouping of texts and images). 


Examining the Roman Coin with Jupiter on the obverse.


Matthew Batchelor, Roman Society intern

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Money Mondays: From Rome to the Tudors and back again

Working with the Beau Street Hoard means that Roman coins are never at a shortage. So when I was asked to put together a display and activity for Money Mondays I decided to expand the time range up to the time of Elizabeth I, the last in the Tudor dynasty.

Of course coins from the Beau St Hoard still made an appearance and alongside the coins of Hadrian, Severus Alexander and Gordian III were coins of Henry I, Henry II, Henry VIII and as mentioned, Elizabeth I. I have always had an interest in Middle Age and Tudor history and this was the perfect opportunity for me to find out more about its coinage, mints and moneyers.

In regards to the activity I chose to do a matching exercise, matching the coin to a description of its ruling Emperor, King or Queen, such as facts and clues to their appearance, character or details of coin production at the time.

I provided a label for each coin, describing its obverse and reverse along with its legend and production date if applicable. As a final activity I collected images of each of the 7 leaders, with the idea to match the coin to its leader using the coin labels and descriptions.
Money Monday table with the coins and their labels

                                
The display did prove quite popular; a good few people took a keen interest to the coins, picking them up and examining then intently and listening while we fed them information about the hoard as well. I was assisted by Katie who was able to answer the questions I couldn’t and both of us put together were able to talk our way around it in the end! It was a great fun to put together and host, and I gained new knowledge in doing so and hope that those who took an interest did to.  I don’t think there could have been a better place to have done it either - the Great Bath of an evening provides the best backdrop!

Myself and Katie alongside the Great Bath

                                

Alice











Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Emma's Placement at the Romans Baths!

May drew to a close, and with that my placement here at the Roman Baths also did. I honestly can’t believe that it’s been 9 months since I began working here with the collections team. I’ve had so many experiences and learning curbs and memories that will remain with me. I can’t list them all in this post so I’m going to list my top four.

Toga Party – one of the volunteers on the collections team hosted her birthday at the roman baths in the form of a toga party. The experience was beyond surreal, walking around the site dressed in full roman garb whilst dancing to 70s disco in the ticket hall that had been transformed into a club complete with flashing lights with the ticket station acting as a bar for the evening! We danced to night away, with me even having to remove my authentic Roman lady’s veil or palla to keep cool.

Me and Caroline dressed as Romans with the water organ
Museums at night –  On the night of Party in the City the Roman Baths opened up to the public till late and had several musical acts such as a swing band around the Great Bath, a lyre player by the temple pediment and our own personal pride -  a replica of a roman water organ built by the wonderful Richard Ellam. A few of us dressed up as Romans and helped with the playing of the organ and talking to the public about it. The event was so much fun and it felt really good to have followed the creation of the organ through from the conception of the idea to the construction and then its premiere to the public.

Me Looking at the collection
Handling collection – Throughout this placement, the fact that I’ve had the chance to see many objects from the Roman Baths collection not on display and be able view them up close is a privilege not lost on me. I can’t believe how lucky I am! To name one particular piece: A real Viking sword!!

Just a few of the lovely people I worked with!
People – Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz saying that she’ll miss Scarecrow most of all, the thing I’ll miss most about my time here will be the people I’ve worked with who were all so welcoming when I began and really came be good friends now I’m leaving. But it’s not goodbye but more of a “see you later”!

With that I’ll wrap this up! Thank you to anyone who read any of my blog posts! I’ve loved writing them!
Emma

Sorry for late posting Emma! our excuse is more of our computers refusing to work with our blog!Verity & Susan








Monday, 28 July 2014

What are we doing with all those coins?

What are we doing with all those coins?

Hello!  My name is Katie and I’m the new Beau Street Hoard Project Officer.  I’ve had a delightful time the last two weeks getting to know about the project and meeting all the friendly and knowledgeable staff and volunteers involved.  I feel most welcome.  I love the Roman Baths and been volunteering here for a while.  I can’t believe my luck to be working here!

Now, my title is Project Officer, but it should probably really be PROJECTS Officer; to celebrate the discovery and acquisition of the Hoard the Roman Baths are running 33 in projects total!  We are running public events like talks, roadshows, and drop-in conservation evenings, providing training for volunteers, students and staff, organising a 2 day conference, having Brownie sleepovers, publishing two books, working with local schools – the list goes on!

Speaking of events, we had our first conservation evening last Saturday here at the Roman Baths.  It was really interesting meeting the conservators from the British Museum and learning about the work they are doing conserving all those 17,577 Roman coins. They showed our visitors (and me) what takes to turn a solid dirty fused lump into thousands of lovely shiny separate coins.
One part of the corroded mass of Roman coins that made up the Beau Street Hoard.  How do you think the conservators dealt with it?

They’ll be back again on 28th October as part of Heritage Open Week, so if you missed last Saturday’s event, do try and come in October!

For the evening I put together a display on all the different projects were doing with the Beau Street Hoard.  It’s huge! I’ve got a lot of work to do!  And I’m really looking forward to it. 

You can find out more about Beau Street Hoard activities through our website www.romanbaths.co.uk, or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.


 Me with my display.


Katie Scaife 

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

The Hippo Camp!

The Beau Street Hoard features coins with all sorts of pictures on the back, including gods and goddesses, emperors and temples, and many different kinds of animals, both real and mythical. One of these mythical animals is the Hippocamp.

The Hippocamp is half-horse and half-fish, almost like an equine mermaid! The Roman god of the sea, Neptune, is often shown using Hippocampi to pull his chariot. We have a mosaic of a Hippocamp in the museum.
 
The Hippocamp Mosaic
 Hippocamp” is actually a Greek word. “Hippo” means horse and “Kampos” means sea monster. We often translate it as “sea-horse”.  The Etruscans (a pre-Roman civilisation in Italy) had lots of mythical animals that were half-fish, including aigikampoi (fish-tailed goats), leokampoi (fish-tailed lions), taurokampoi (fish-tailed bulls) and pardalokampoi (fish-tailed leopards).

Of course, of all the animals featured on the coins, our favourite is the Hippo! This is why the mascot for the Heritage Lottery Funded Beau Street Hoard Project is Beau the Hippo. So we decided to create our own version of a Hippo Camp.
 
The Hippo-Camp - L-R: Phil, Gordo and Beau
As you can see, Beau and his friends, Phil and Gordo (named after Philip I and Gordian III, the most represented Emperors in the Hoard) are having a lovely time at the Hippo-Camp. This picture was drawn by our volunteer artist-extraordinaire. It looked like so much fun that even our stuffed animal Beau wanted a go!
 
The Re-Enacted Hippo-Camp (with Beau)

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Roman Cures and Concoctions!

The Romans adopted the majority of their medical teachings and practices from the Greeks. In fact, the most respected and sought after doctors that practiced in the Roman Empire were Greek - for example, Hippocrates and Galen.

Even so, the Roman's distrusted Greek Doctors! Roman writer, Pliny even wrote that he'd heard that all Greek doctors swore an oath to kill all foreigners - definitely a misunderstanding of the Hippocratic oath (a pledge still taken by today's Doctors and thought to have been written by Hippocrates).

Me with my Roman Medicine Table for NSEW 2014!
Speaking of Hippocrates, although commended though the ages and given the nickname 'father of western medicine', he did have a couple of strange practices including tasting his patient's urine and earwax to diagnose their illness.

Another way to find out what was wrong with you was to visit one of the temples dedicated to the God of Healing, Asclepius. These temples became popular around the year 300 BC  and involved patients spending the night sleeping on the temple floor with snakes crawling around between them. The snakes were meant to inspire dreams in the unwell which would reveal how they could be cured.

Statue of Asclepius, exhibited in the Museum of Epidaurus Theatre.
Once the patient had been diagnosed, if they had survived the terror of the snake pit or the embarrassment of seeing the doctor drink your wee, then came the treatment.

Galen believed in the curative power of opposites. So, if you had a fever, he'd give you a cucumber and if you had a cold he'd prescribe hot pepper! I personally think I'll stick to the antibiotics!

Other cures included...
  • Drinking gladiator's blood to cure epilepsy.
  • Eating goat dung soup if you had a headache.
  • Applying boiled liver to sore eyes.
Even though it may seem like the Romans' medical practices were crazy, some of their ideas were pretty advanced!

My own efforts in making a herb parcel! Romans dropped these in their baths and cooking pots!
They had a vast knowledge of herbs and their healing properties - for example they knew that fennel aided digestion and that mint had antiseptic properties. 

They were also aware of being able to catch diseases through drinking unclean water, Vitruvius, a Roman architect, wrote: 

"We must take great care in searching for springs and, in selecting them, keeping in mind the health of the people."

So, next time you're stuck in bed with a cold, be thankful you're not a Roman!

Emma