The Great Bath at the Roman Bath in Bath. Steam is emanating from the warm spring water, which has green hue. Graffiti overlay featuring a quote from the article: "Light and shadow play on the ancient stones"

The Roman Ruins in Bath: Why is There a Roman Bath City in England?

Here You’ll Find:
🏛️ The Ancient Romans and the British Isles
The Roman Empire's Relationship with England
Why Are there Roman Ruins in Bath?
What is a Roman Bath?
Engineering Marvels
Ancient Roman Mythology and Culture
🚶‍♂️ A Roman in Bath or a Roam Around Bath?
Since the Romans Left Bath
Visiting the Roman Baths in Bath Today
Can you Go Into the Water? Can you Drink the Water?
The Bath Roman Bath Museum & Tours
Bath Beyond the Baths


In the picturesque countryside of Southern England lies the city of Bath, a living testament to its Roman legacy. The Roman ruins in Bath were part of a thriving Roman settlement two millennia ago. Today, Bath preserves the ancient baths for visitors to experience a chapter of history not often found in Northern Europe. Bath is a hidden gem in England, which offers an insight into Ancient Roman history, suitable for all audiences. Bath's iconic Roman Baths are one of the most famous attractions in England. Yet, the city's stunning Georgian architecture and vibrant cultural events cement it as one of the best things to do in southern England. Join us on a journey to explore and discover the rich tapestry of Bath's Roman past and modern charm. Together we'll uncover the secrets held by the famous Roman ruins in Bath.


A map highlighting the land area held at the height of the ancient Roman Empire in 117 AD.

The Ancient Romans and the British Isles

Welcome to England's Roman Bath City, a journey through time shaped by the impact of the Roman invasion in 43 AD. The existence of Roman bath spas and thermal complexes on English shores offers a unique exploration of the Roman Empire's legacy beyond the land of pizza and pasta. At the heart of this exploration lies the city of Bath, where well-preserved structures are a window into the opulent lifestyle of ancient Romans. Awe-inspiring landmarks, such as the Roman Baths, remain a testament to the grandeur of the Roman Empire. Immerse yourself in the daily lives of ancient Romans through architecture, natural hot springs, and societal customs. Bath unfolds as an immersive experience, inviting you to discover the enduring legacy of one of history's most influential civilisations. Should you choose to pay Somerset a visit, you're sure to feel like an Ancient Roman in Bath, exploring the living history of England's Roman Bath City (and we're sure to pick up a few Roman Empire facts along the way too).


A section of Hadrian's Wall at Sycamore Gap in England. A stretch of old natural stone wall and green fields can be seen, as well as part of a sycamore tree

The Roman Empire's Relationship with England

The history of the Roman Empire and its relationship with England is a tale of conquest, rebellion, and cultural integration. It began with Julius Caesar's initial attempts at conquering Britain in 55 BC and 54 BC. While these campaigns did not result in the immediate annexation of Britain into the empire, they did establish diplomatic ties which paved the way for a future invasion. The successful invasion came under Emperor Claudius in 43 AD. This campaign resulted in significant territorial gains, leading to Roman control over many parts of Britain. It was during this period that cities like Londinium (London) and Aquae Sulis (Bath), now renowned for their Roman archaeological sites, were founded. The Roman occupation of Britain lasted from 43 AD to 410 AD.

The era was marked by various key events, such as Boudicca's rebellion in 60/61 AD. As queen of the Iceni tribe, Boudicca led a major uprising against occupying Roman forces, following their mistreatment of her family and tribe. A significant symbol of Roman Britain and its defensive strategy is Hadrian's Wall. Built under the orders of Emperor Hadrian in 122 AD as a barrier at the northern limit of Britannia, it falls some miles short of the modern-day border between England and Scotland. The wall remains one of England's most iconic ancient Roman landmarks. During their time in Britain, the Romans left an indelible mark on England's culture, infrastructure, and geography, which can be seen even today at sites like Bath in the south of England and along Hadrian's Wall in the north—both unmissable sites to see in England for anyone interested in exploring the rich Roman history of the British Isles.


A close up of a mosaic tile pattern of some horses found at the Roman Baths in Bath, England

Why Are there Roman Ruins in Bath?

The natural hot springs of Bath, known as Aquae Sulis to the Romans, were a significant attraction and played a crucial role in establishing a settlement, giving us a host of artefacts and notable Roman sites in Bath. The Romans were drawn to Bath because of these hot springs, which they believed had healing properties and were associated with the goddess Minerva. As a result, they constructed the impressive Sulis Minerva temple complex and developed the surrounding Roman town. Bath became a significant centre for bathing, leisure, and religious pilgrimage within the empire, giving England some famous Roman sites outside of Italy.

The Roman influence on Bath is still visible today, with remnants of history scattered throughout the modern town. The most notable relic is the well-preserved Roman Baths complex, which showcases the sophisticated engineering and architectural skills of the Romans. Visitors to Bath can explore this historic site and marvel at the beautifully preserved bathing chambers, plunge pools, and intricate mosaic floors. The Great Bath itself stands as a testament to the Romans' mastery of water management systems, with its elaborate network of underground channels that ensured a constant flow of hot spring water.

Furthermore, Bath's unique location offered another advantage: the natural hot spring itself provided fresh water to the ancient Roman spa, making it stand out from other settlements that relied on aqueducts or other water sources. This abundance of readily available thermal water contributed to Bath's development as a thriving Roman centre.


A 3D wooden model depicting what the layout of the Roman Baths complex in Bath, would have looked like when in full operation.

What is a Roman Bath?

Roman baths were a key part of daily life in ancient Roman bath cities. These were not merely places for bathing but also centres for socialising, exercising, and even conducting business. The Bath Roman Spa was a place where everyone, regardless of their social status, could enjoy the comforts of heated water. Harnessing the hot springs in Bath, the Romans ingeniously created underground heating systems known as hypocausts. These consisted of a series of hollow tunnels beneath the floor and walls of the baths that allowed hot air from furnaces to circulate and heat the bath above. They piped hot water from the spring into large lead tanks above the ground, which then flowed into the various baths.

Aside from enjoying the thermal waters of the Great Bath itself, a typical visit to the Roman hot baths would involve progression through different rooms with varying temperatures. First would be the frigidarium, or cold room, usually consisting of a large cold pool where patrons could cool off before moving onto other areas. Next came the tepidarium, or warm room—an intermediate relaxing chamber to become acclimatised to the heat gradually, before proceeding to hotter rooms. Lastly was the caldarium, or hot room, similar in many ways to modern saunas or steam rooms; this was where bathers would sweat out impurities. In addition to these features, it wouldn't have been uncommon to find an open-air exercise area called a palaestra. This was where Romans practiced sports and physical exercises before bathing; it played an important role in maintaining health and fitness.


The remains of the ancient Roman hypocaust underfloor heating system at the Roman Baths in Bath, England.

Engineering Marvels

The Romans were engineering marvels, showcasing their exceptional skills in various architectural feats, from roads, bridges, and sewers to temples, forums, and villas, and even underfloor heating! One prominent example of their expertise is the construction of aqueducts to supply fresh water to bathhouses and cities. The Romans ingeniously designed and built aqueducts using a combination of arches and channels to transport water over long distances, demonstrating their advanced engineering capabilities. However, the location of the natural hot spring in Bath provided fresh water directly to the ancient Roman spa, making North East Somerset a unique location in the Roman Empire.

Moreover, the well-preserved structures of the Roman Baths offer valuable insights into Roman engineering and construction techniques. So these are far from just Roman ruins in Bath; the durability and preservation of these baths serve as a testament to a genuine architectural masterpiece and to the innovative building methods employed by the Romans. The engineering prowess of a civilisation from 2,000 years ago is exemplified when we consider the following: all of this came at a time when the ancient Romans also believed the Bath hot spring was a bubbling gateway to the underworld...


A stone carving that formed part of the Aquae Sulis Temple in Bath. The carving is a depiction of an unusual male gorgon head, which it is believed may be the Greek God 'Oceanus'

Ancient Roman Mythology and Culture

The mythology and culture of the ancient Romans are testaments to a society steeped in spirituality, rituals, and complex social norms. In the realm of gods and goddesses, certain deities, like Sulis Minerva, were revered for their association with water and healing. Sulis Minerva was the patron goddess of Bath, a city that was considered sacred due to its hot springs. This is reflected in the city's name, Aquae Sulis, meaning "waters of Sulis." In addition to Sulis Minerva, an unusual stone carving of a male gorgon head is believed to be a depiction of Oceanus, another deity with watery ways. Although gorgons were traditionally depicted as female in Greek mythology, this unusual male representation highlights the unique fusion of cultures and beliefs prevalent in Roman society.

Bathing held immense importance in daily life and culture during Roman times. It was not merely a hygienic activity; it was also viewed as a communal event that fostered social bonding. Bath houses, or 'thermae', served as hubs for social gatherings where citizens indulged in recreational activities alongside bathing. Moreover, bathing also played an integral part in religious practices; it was deemed an act of purification before engaging in any religious ceremony. The impact of these beliefs can be seen vividly in Bath's architectural design. The reverence for Aquae Sulis gave rise to buildings designed around the spring and bath spa itself, as they aimed to harness the healing properties of its waters. It became a place where religion met recreation, where individuals relaxed and worshipped in equal measure.

The Bath Roman Temple's location near the sacred spring, and its architectural features, were designed to honour Sulis Minerva and to accommodate religious rituals, offerings and even curses etched into lead tablets. The presence of statues, inscriptions, and other decorative elements would have further reinforced the religious significance of the site. Hence, understanding Ancient Roman mythology and culture provides us with deep insights into life in England's Roman bath city and Roman bathing culture, along with a snapshot of daily life at the time.


A panoramic view of the city of Bath, taken from a high vantage point.

A Roman in Bath or a Roam Around Bath?

The Roman Baths' Somerset location stands as a living testament to Roman ingenuity, harnessing the power of Britain's geography. Whether you're planning a trip to Great Britain or you're already here shortlisting the must-see UK destinations, modern-day Bath seamlessly blends ancient heritage with timeless allure. Stepping away from the historical significance of Aquae Sulis and its ties to the ancient Romans, we now explore the contemporary marvel that is Britain's Roman Bath City. Let's delve into how Bath has woven its Roman legacy into its modern fabric, solidifying its status as a must-visit destination for any traveller seeking a journey through time. From the iconic Roman Baths to its unmistakable Georgian charm, we'll uncover how Bath honours its rich past while embracing the essence of today's vibrant culture.


A photo of the Royal Crescent building, across its well manicured grass lawn in Bath, England. The building is a fine example of Georgian architecture.

Since the Romans Left Bath

Following the Roman withdrawal, they left behind the now-infamous Bath Roman ruins, but the settlement experienced a decline for many years. However, during the Saxon and Mediaeval eras, it was gradually revived as a significant settlement, forging its own unique character and identity. The 18th century marked a pivotal transformation during the Georgian period. This era saw the construction of iconic landmarks like the Royal Crescent, contributing to Bath's architectural splendour and urban development. Today, Bath proudly embraces both its Roman roots and elegant Georgian legacy. Visitors can delve into this intriguing blend of historical periods, offering a unique time-travel experience through the city's rich heritage.

Strolling through the quaint cobblestone streets is like time travel; almost everywhere you look, you'll snatch glimpses of Georgian townhouses adorned with elegant facades and wrought-iron balconies. The honey-coloured bath stone, a hallmark of these buildings, lends the city a distinctive air of sophistication. Mentioning Bath without acknowledging its literary connections is almost impossible. This picturesque city served as inspiration for renowned authors like Jane Austen, who resided here for several years. Imagine wandering the same (often very steep and hilly) streets that featured in novels like "Persuasion" and "Northanger Abbey." Exploring further, you'll encounter charming tea rooms offering traditional English afternoon tea, or cosy pubs serving hearty meals accompanied by local ales and ciders.


The top of a stone doorway with the words 'Roman Baths' carved into it. Gold colouring is inlaid into the carved wording

Visiting the Roman Baths in Bath Today

Stepping into the ancient Roman baths is a captivating sensory experience. If you immerse yourself in the experience and step back in time, by considering nearly two millennia of lives gone by, you'll understand why these Roman ruins in England are actually one of the best things to see in Britain. The sight of well-preserved Roman architecture, bathed in the natural thermal springs that have flowed for thousands of years, creates a stunning ambiance. Light and shadow play on the ancient stones, transporting you back in time. The sounds of trickling water and whispers of history fill the air, adding to the immersive atmosphere. The aroma of minerals and thermal waters, mingled with hints of ancient rituals, offer an intriguing depth to your exploration.

Although the Great Bath and its surrounding Roman column supports are undoubtedly the main attraction, there have been additions and extensions to the surrounding buildings in the years since the fall of the Roman Empire. The surrounding buildings in the Abbey Church Yard area of Bath serve to tell the story of the city centre from the Roman period and every era since. For a deeper understanding of the Roman baths experience, guided tours and audio guides offer various options to unearth your own perspective of the baths' history and architecture. These resources provide valuable insights into the lives of the Romans who once inhabited this space, making it a truly enriching experience. Immerse yourself in living history as you step back in time at one of Britain's most treasured Roman ruins—an experience promising both education and deep engagement.


The King's Spring at the Pump Room in Bath, England.

Can you Go Into the Water? Can you Drink the Water?

Swimming in the Roman Baths has been prohibited since the late 1970s due to safety regulations and preservation concerns. The green colour of the water is a result of sunlight, encouraging algae growth. Originally, a roof would have sheltered the water and prevented this. Additionally, the use of lead for the pipes and water tanks, would make the water unsafe by modern standards. While swimming in the historic site is not allowed, visitors can safely consume the water (and smell the sulphur) from a safe water fountain, which provides fresh thermal spring water during the tour.

The presence of sulphur in the water, giving it a distinct smell, was considered beneficial by the Romans. For modern UK hot spring baths, visitors can explore other local spas like Thermae Bath Spa, which uses a new borehole into the same spring as the Roman Baths. Here you'll be able to soak in the water like the Celtic Goddess Sulis herself, as well as feel the heat from the natural hot spring. Modern-day spas ensure the natural spring water is tampered with as little as possible, but guarantee it is still safe to relax in the sacred spring while you reminisce about Roman times gone by.


The gilt bronze head of Sulis Minerva, from a statue which would have been found in the Aquae Sulis Temple on the site of the Roman Baths in Bath.

The Bath Roman Bath Museum & Tours

The accompanying Bath Roman Bath Museum and a diverse array of tours are must-dos when visiting this heritage site. One iconic artefact is the bronze head of Sulis Minerva, symbolising the goddess and highlighting the religious significance of the Roman Baths. This discovery offers insights into the ancient beliefs and practices associated with the baths. In addition to the bronze head, the museum showcases fascinating exhibits like Roman jewellery, coins, pottery, and more, providing a comprehensive look at life in ancient Bath. These artefacts offer a glimpse into the daily lives and customs of the people who once inhabited this area.

Visitors can choose from various guided tours tailored to different interests and preferences. Families can enjoy interactive and educational tours designed for all ages, while history enthusiasts can opt for in-depth historical tours, delving into the rich past of this remarkable site. After being buried for centuries, the Roman Baths have undergone extensive restoration and preservation efforts following their rediscovery. Today, visitors can explore these well-preserved ancient baths and gain a deeper understanding of their historical and cultural significance. For those seeking an enriching experience that offers a window into ancient Roman life, a visit to the Roman Baths' museum is an essential part of any trip to Bath.


A picturesque street in Bath, England. There is a sign hanging from one of the buildings advertising Sally Lunn's buns, an eatery based in a building which has stood in Bath since the year 1680.

Bath Beyond the Baths

Bath's charm extends far beyond its Roman roots, and there is plenty that you must do in Bath if you're planning a visit. Discover a captivating fusion of history and culture nestled within this elegant city. While renowned for its Roman antiquities, Bath gained UNESCO World Heritage status for much more than its ancient connection. The city's Georgian architecture, characterised by crescents, terraces, and the iconic Circus, exudes a timeless allure that captivates visitors.  From a literary standpoint, Jane Austen's obvious love for the city draws in enthusiasts of her work as well.

For history and architecture lovers, you can tap into Bath's Georgian heritage with a visit to the Royal Crescent and the Pump Room. These landmarks stand as testaments to Bath's rich heritage and architectural charm. Additionally, indulging in some traditional Sally Lunn buns is sure to put a taste of local history on the tip of your tongue. Beyond its architectural splendour, Bath boasts a vibrant cultural scene with annual events like the Bath Festival and its Christmas Market. These festivities add an extra layer of magic to this already captivating city.

Intrinsically entwined with both Roman history and Georgian elegance, Bath promises an enriching experience for travellers seeking a blend of heritage and culture. In Bath, every corner holds a new discovery waiting to be explored—whether it's stumbling upon a hidden courtyard or gazing at the graceful arches of Pulteney Bridge spanning the River Avon. The city's rich heritage, combined with its timeless elegance, truly makes for an awe-inspiring journey that will leave you forever enchanted by this mesmerising destination.

Our exploration of England's Roman Bath City concludes with a sense of wonder about the ancient Roman civilisation that left behind such an enduring legacy. A wander around the Roman Baths feels like entering a perfectly preserved slice of history, connecting us with our ancestors across time. Bath's charming streets seamlessly blend Roman history with modern offerings, inviting us to traverse centuries in effortless and breathtaking ways. Venturing off the beaten path reveals hidden gems, echoing the awe felt by past wanderers. Bath's captivating charm, blending enchanting historical sites with picturesque beauty, leaves every traveller spellbound. Each step holds a new discovery, concluding our journey with an experience that lingers long after we leave.