So That’s Why It’s Called Bath, or, Dude Looks like a Lady (not a JA post, or is it?)

Ah, there is some lovely green water. Don’t you want to just go take a long, hot bath in the waters of Bath? No? Perhaps you want to drink the “spa water”? No, again? Well, how about just visiting the baths of Bath and learning a little bit about its history? OK, then. Good.

Last weekend Adam and I visited Bath with the intention of going to the Jane Austen Centre (see previous blog post) and walking around the fashionable town–all this was done to get a sense of the place in which JA lived and set two novels. Of course, a visit to Bath would feel incomplete without a visit to the Roman baths. As an American tourist, you have to go there. I have been to the baths before, but I was on a tight schedule and did not have time to fully read the placards and mosey around at my own pace. On this visit, I did just that, and it was lovely.

My favorite item in the museum/baths is this (surprise! it has nothing to do with water…or does it?):

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Take a look at the image in the center of this fractured, but still legible triangular pediment. That image could be a gorgon. It is not what I expect to see when I think of a gorgon, however, because I always think of a female figure, particularly Medusa. Gorgons are typically female, yet plenty of people, including those who have created the museum guide and those editing Wikipedia, say: Gorgon!

Look again. What do you see?

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(I did not take this picture! Image found at https://www.flickr.com/photos/patrlynch/13642134174)

This picture seems to show a man with snake-like hair (aka gorgon)–but if a gorgon, why a man? Why a man adorning Minerva’s temple? The Roman baths include so many images of Minerva and other important women, so who the heck is this dude? According to The Guardian, this figure is a hybrid–part Roman, part Celtic; it’s a medusa-wild man. A Bath blogger suggests a couple of other theories, including one also mentioned at the museum: he is a water deity. Maybe he’s Neptune says the blogger. The Roman Baths website says that he might be Oceanus. I like this idea of a water god–it fits better with the whole bath concept because, you know, water! The blogger also suggests a few other possibilities, like a sun god or Mithras. At this point, I am going to go with……………….Oceanus!

See:

OK, moving on. Check out this bronzy water pic at left and this pigeon soaking in the tub at right. That pigeon was having a spa day, and I loved it!

I could go on and on about the Roman baths–I really enjoyed my visit–but I will end by saying this: when you visit 1) watch your step, 2) don’t slip and fall, 3) don’t touch the water or put your feet in it, 4) don’t climb the columns, and 5) do not eat ice cream or french fries (aka chips), or sip on a soft drink while you are there.

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See those feet? Those are my feet not sitting in the water. I tend to follow the rules, or at least I try to follow them. I can’t say that about everyone I saw there, including a certain person who will go unnamed. 😀

I wonder what Jane Austen thought about this part of Bath. If she could visit the Pump Room and take in the waters, would she not have had some familiarity with this part of the baths? As my day started with Stonehenge and ended with Roman baths, I couldn’t help but continually think about Austen and what she would have thought about these places.

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