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, 25 September 2019

Words on Wednesdays: Beauty

‘A thing of beauty is a joy for ever’
John Keats

Health and beauty were considered important for Romans. They wanted to make themselves look as good as they could. From bathing in the public bathhouse to wearing glamorous jewellery, they put a lot of effort into maintaining their health and beauty.  I chose some interesting objects that are in the Roman Baths collection on the subject of hygiene and jewellery and set up a handling table for visitors by the Great Bath.

Handling Roman objects by the Great Bath

First of all, hygiene. The most popular object I had on the table was the pocket toilet set including ear-scoop, nail-cleaner and tweezers. Romans carried this toilet set on their belt or in a little bag to the bathhouse.

Left to Right: Tweezers, nail cleaner and ear scoop

We can’t talk about Roman beauty without mentioning hairstyles. Roman women had elaborate hairstyles. They copied complicated hairstyles from coins or statues of the empress or important people. Many hairstyles required some hair pins made of bone or metal to keep the hair in place. Some even added hair pieces, and others wore wigs made from real hair. Slaves had to curl and pin the hair of their mistress. On the handling table, there was a bone hair pin and a beautifully preserved wooden comb on our handling table. Visitors loved the 2000 years old comb which was found in the Sacred Spring on our site.

Left to right: bone hair pin and wooden comb

Last but not least is Roman jewellery. Finger-rings, bracelets, earrings, and necklaces were the most common items which completed their outfit. Brooches had a utilitarian function as clothes fasteners, however, we can assume that they also a decoration by looking at various designs of brooches. On our handling table, I had a copper alloy bow-brooch and its replica which helped to imagine what it might have looked like back in Roman times. Children enjoyed bow-brooch making activity using metallic card paper.

Left to right: Bow brooch and replica

Bow brooch craft activity

Although it was a replica, one of my favourite objects was a little ring-key. This key shaped ring was an actual key to lock caskets or strong boxes. Visitors were amazed by this clever solution for security.

Replica ring-key

There are more objects on display at the Roman Baths which I strongly recommend you come to see. I wonder if you can spot the little display of an intricate penannular brooch (circle shaped brooch) near the King’s Bath on your visit.

Placement Student

수요일의 한 줄: 로마시대의 아름다움

‘아름다움은 영원한 기쁨이다’-존 키츠의 시 엔디미온(Endymion)

건강과 아름다움을 유지하는 것은 로마인들에게 매우 중요했답니다. 그들은 할 수 있는 한 아름답게 자기자신을 가꾸려고 했어요. 대중 목욕탕에서 목욕을 하는 것부터 화려한 장신구를 착용하는 것까지 많은 노력을 기울였어요. 저는 로만 바스 박물관 컬렉션에서 로마시대의 아름다움과 관련된 유물들을 골라 수요일 저녁 Great Bath옆에 방문객들이 직접 만져볼 수 있는 핸들링 테이블을 마련했답니다. 물론 금속으로 된 것들이라 작은 상자 안에 각각 넣어두긴 했지만요.

핸들링 테이블

, 위생과 관련된 유물. 가장 인기가 많았던 유물은 귀이개, 손톱 클리너, 족집게였어요. 로마인들은 이것들을 고리에 연결하여 밸트에 달거나 작은 가방에 넣어 목욕탕에 가곤 했대요.

왼쪽부터 족집게손톱 클리너귀이개

로마시대의 아름다움에 대해 이야기할 때 빼놓을 수 없는 것이 헤어스타일이예요
. 로마시대 여성들은 굉장히 정교한 헤어스타일을 갖고 있었는데요, 동전이나 조각상에서 여제나 귀족 여성들의 헤어스타일이 유행을 선도했다고 해요. 복잡하게 땋고 틀어 올린 헤어스타일을 유지하기 위해서는 많은 헤어핀이 필요했는데, 헤어핀들은 주로 동물의 뼈나 금속으로 만들어졌어요. 아름다운 헤어스타일을 완성하기 위해서 어떤 사람들은 헤어 피스를 붙이기도 했고 가발을 착용하기도 했다고 해요. 부잣집 여주인들은 하녀들에게 자신의 머리카락을 곱슬곱슬하게 만들고 헤어핀을 이용해 스타일을 만들도록 했어요. 수요일의 핸들링 테이블에 우리는 뼈로 만들어진 헤어핀, 그리고 아름답게 보존된 나무 빗을 전시했어요. 방문객들은 여기 로만 바스의 Sacred Spring에서 발견된 2000년된 빗을 굉장히 좋아했답니다.

외쪽부터 뼈 헤어핀나무 빗

마지막으로는 로마인들이 사랑했던 장신구입니다
. 반지, 팔찌, 귀걸이 그리고 목걸이는 그 시대 사람들의 패션을 완성시켜주었던 가장 흔한 장신구예요. 브로치는 굉장히 느슨한 옷을 입었던 로마인들의 옷을 고정시켜주는 실용적인 기능을 갖고 있었지만, 화려하고 다양한 디자인의 브로치가 있었던 것을 보면 장식적인 역할도 했음을 짐작할 수 있어요. 우리의 핸들링 테이블에는 구리 합금으로 된 활모양의 브로치가 있었어요. 오랜 시간이 지난 금속 브로치라 변색이 되었지만, 우리가 갖고 있는 복제품은 당시에 얼마나 아름답고 반짝이는 브로치였는지 상상할 수 있게 해주었답니다. 어린이 방문객들은 우리가 준비한 활 모양 브로치 만들기 활동을 하며 즐거워했어요.

활 모양 브로치와 복제품
활 모양 브로치 만들기 활동

복제품이기는 하지만
, 제가 가장 좋아했던 유물은 열쇠 반지였어요. 열쇠 모양으로 된 이 작은 반지는 실제로 로마인들이 작은 장식함이나 금고를 잠그는 열쇠로 쓰였다고 해요. 우리 테이블을 찾아준 많은 방문객들이 로마인들이 보안을 위해 만든 이 영리한 열쇠 반지를 보고 놀라워했답니다.

열쇠 반지 (복제품)

로만 바스 박물관에는 로마시대의 화려한 문화 유산을 느껴볼 수 있는 많은 유물들이 전시되어 있어요
. 바스에 오실 일이 있다면 꼭 한 번 방문하길 추천합니다. 로만 바스에 오시면 Kings Bath 근처 작은 디스플레이 케이스에 아주 정교하고 아름다운 원형의 브로치가 있는데요, 한 번 찾아보시는 건 어떨까요?

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Words on Wednesdays: Numismatics

“Don’t think money does everything or you are going to end up doing everything for money”

As part of my numismatic placement at the Roman Baths, I put together a handling table exploring different forms of money over time; this included coinage, bank notes, currency tokens and jettons. I began with the Iron Age and then went on to explore money in the Roman Empire, Anglo-Saxon and Medieval periods, and the 17-19th century. I hoped to illustrate that money has never had a single form; for thousands of years, the label ‘money’ could be ascribed to any object or material with tradable value!

Visitors to the handling table investigate Iron Age coins

One of the most popular items on my handling table was a copper alloy dupondius, issued by Nero in 64-67 AD, which was found in the Sacred Spring at the Baths. The front, or obverse, of the coin depicts the head of Emperor Nero, and his head is surrounded by text which names his many titles. If we compare this coin to an English pound coin we can see that although the names and values of coinage have changed, what is depicted on coins is not too different.

Roman dupondius issued by Nero

To represent the 19th century, I chose to display 19th century bank notes. Like our modern bank notes, this note from 1841 has the statement, “I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of £5”, meaning that the person who held this note could take it into the bank which issued the note and exchange it for the equivalent price in gold coin. This £5 note would be equivalent to around £300 in today’s currency!

£5 bank note issued by Bath Old Bank

Tokens were produced throughout the 17-19th century in times of coin shortages where they acted as substitutes for pennies, farthings and shillings. They were used in both a commercial setting, such as in a shop or a warehouse, and in some cases they were used as gambling tokens! Tokens were in frequent use, and the Roman Baths collection holds examples that were used locally in Sydney Gardens, the Pump Room, and even the Crystal Palace Inn around the corner from the museum!

Bath Token from 1811

I really enjoyed talking to visitors about this forgotten form of money, especially when it had such a big impact on our economy. It was an excellent way to exhibit objects that are not permanently on display!

British Numismatic Society Student Placement

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Words on Wednesdays: Delicious Cakes

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience”

James Beard

In last week's blog I described cooking in the Roman period, but to provide the full experience at my handling table, I also did some Roman cooking!

Putting the finishing touches on my Roman cakes; a sprinkle of nuts and a drizzle of honey

From the bookshelf I pulled ‘The Roman Cookery of Apicius’ (De Re Coquinaria), translated by John Edwards.

Apicius was a Roman man who wrote a recipe book during the first century BC. It is not what we would call a recipe book today, with his recipes giving little to no indication of quantities or cooking time. We can assume his book was meant for the experienced cook who could use their own judgement.

Flicking through the book, many of the recipes didn’t seem so bad, pleasant even; pears cooked with cinnamon and wine, lentil soup, marinated pork chops. But there were some recipes that I wasn’t too keen to try; apples and calf’s brain casserole, liver, chicken and onion hors d’oeuvres.

I settled on the recipe for aliter dulcia (sweets), a rich sweet honey cake topped with nuts. YUM! John Edwards’ book provided a modern adapted recipe which I used to make the cakes. Wine and honey replace the sugars we use to sweeten our cakes and cinnamon and rosemary fill the cake with a burst of flavour.

Rich sweet Roman cakes, fresh from the oven!

Apicius recipe:

Mix pepper, nuts, honey, rue and raisin wine. Cook in milk and pastry. Thicken with a little egg and bake. Pour honey on top, sprinkle with nuts and serve.

Adapted Recipe: 

Rich Sweet Cakes

2 tsp cinnamon
½ cup almonds (chopped)
½ tsp ground rosemary (rue)
2 cups pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ cup sweet raisin wine
1 egg
4 Tbsp honey or brown sugar
¾ cup milk

In a mixing bowl, put cinnamon, chopped almonds and rosemary (rue). Add flour, baking powder and mix. Next, combine sweet wine, well beaten egg, honey and milk. Blend and stir into the dry ingredients. Bake in 375°F (190°C) oven in a greased 9 inch round pan, for 30 minutes. Pour a little honey on top of the finished cake, garnish with nuts and serve.

From De Re Coquinaria (Roman Cookery of Apicius), translated by John Edwards.

Why not have a go at making them yourself?

Imogen Westcott
Collections Placement

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Words on Wednesdays: Delicious

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience” 
James Beard

Food is part of our everyday life, sometimes we even plan our days around food, eating it or cooking it! It’s not a surprise that the Romans did too.

My own love of food and cooking was the inspiration for my handling table. I wanted to learn about Roman cooking tools and methods, maybe even try a bit of cooking myself. When I began looking at the objects within the museum’s collection, I was stunned to find that much of the methods and utensils of cooking weren’t too dissimilar to those used today.

Getting up close and personal with the collection, visitors are encouraged to hold objects

The Romans increased the availability and variety of food in Britain, introducing new and exotic ingredients, especially for the wealthier classes. Food scraps found by archaeologists today, such as bones and shells, are evidence of food eaten by the Romans. Fish varieties were eaten widely and used to make garum, a fermented fish sauce used as a salty seasoning in cooking.

Butchery marks on animal bone tell us that people were eating and probably selling meat. The scratches and cuts in the bone require a closer look. A bone will splinter or shatter if broken; we know these marks are butchers marks because of the clean cuts into the bone, which can only be caused by a sharp blade.

Handling animal bone with obvious signs of butchery

Pottery was used throughout the kitchen for cooking, storage and serving. Large ceramic pots were used to cook stews and soups and could also be used to store food. Lighter, smaller cooking vessels, such as pewter or bronze pans were popular with soldiers but could also be used in the home.

Bronze patera found during excavations of the Sacred Spring, on display at the Roman Baths

My favourite object was the mortarium, a bowl-shaped vessel with grit embedded surface used as a grinding and mixing bowl. This ancient mortar and pestle was one of the most important tools in the Roman kitchen. The Romans liked food that was heavily spiced, possibly to hide the taste of old meat, and needed a tool to grind all these spices to a useable powder or paste.

Left: North Gaulish mortarium rim, Right: close up of maker's stamp

This particular mortarium is special because of the maker’s stamp near the spout (see image above). This stamp belongs to Quintus Valerius Veranius, with a date range of 65-100 A.D. His stamps have been found on mortaria in Northern France, western Belgium and Britain. This helps us trace the movement of the maker and their wares from workshop to country, which in turn helps us create a bigger picture of Roman life in Britain.

Imogen Westcott
Collections Placement