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The Antonine Bath Complex is quite an unexpected find when you stumble upon them just 16km NorthEast of Tunis, Tunisia in Carthage. Carthage after being conquered by the Romans in the Third Punic War was left in desolation until it was rebuilt by Julius Caesar and rose to become the Third largest city in the Roman Empire. The Antonine Baths began construction under the reign of Hadrian and were completed by Antoninus Pius. They were not only the largest Roman Thermae built in Africa, but also one of the largest in the Roman Empire.
The baths were build directly on the Coast not far from Ports into Carthage. The water that supplied the complex came from the Borj Jedid cisterns. Once the water arrived at the complex it was stored on the ground level of the complex, which is unusual because in most Roman Thermae the water was stored in the basement. The design of the Antonine Baths is unusual in that the attendants, service areas, hypocausts (Roman Boiler Room) and other things that you would typically find in the basement were all on ground level. With the complex being build right against the coast, particularly deep foundations were required that made it impractical to have a basement so, the Romans put the baths, palaestra (gymnasiums), and other areas for leisure on the upper floor.
The upper floor consisted of:
Caldaria: The hot plunge for of lack of a better term.
Tepidaria: The warm bath where they would relax. These first two baths were intended to open up the pores. It would have been heated by the pipes coming from the hypocausts.
A Large Frigidarium: This was the cool bath that would close up the pores
An open air pool and terrace
An indoor pool the size of an Olympic swimming pool
And much more
When you visit the Antonine Baths now you won’t find all of this much of this complex left. The baths fell out of use in the third century AD and was then stripped of all of the marble and granite for other projects. You will find a re-erected column that would have supported the upper floor standing at 5 meters which will really give you a sense of the size of the complex in its heyday. You can also see the ruins of the ground floor.