Suburban Thermae or Baths of Herculaneum (Terme Suburbane)

Suburban Thermae Herculaneum


Suburban ThermaeSuburban Thermae was located on the former coast of the Gulf of Naples. They are perfectly preserved almost in its original form. The suburban baths, apparently, were a gift to the city from Proconsul Marcus Nonius Balba whose statue and memorial altar are on the terrace in front of the building. The baths very well survived despite the eruption and are in excellent condition. The fact that the coastline was pushed back almost half a kilometer into the sea shows that the volcanic avalanche had not lost its strength by the time it reached the bath. The volcanic wave continued far into the sea.

The building owes its survival to its construction. The walls were built of brick and lined with concrete. Volcanic mud poured through skylights and filled the interior so that the pressure outside and inside was equal. Because of this, the Suburban Baths did not burst like a Greek nut.

The main entrance (a) to the bathhouse consists of a portal with half columns supporting tympans. A flight of stairs leads from there down to the lobby (b). Unlike the Central Termae, these bathtubs were not separated, and were probably used alternately by both sexes. The lobby of the Suburban Termae was under the arch supported by four columns and topped with rounded arches. The marble bust of Apollo stands on a pillar, and from it in antiquity the water gurgled quietly and fell into the pool in front of it. From the lobby you could get into all areas of the bathtubs.

Suburban Thermae Herculaneum  Suburban Thermae Herculaneum


In the northeast corner of the lobby there is a small vestibule with a doorway (c) from where the entrance to the service area opens (painted blue on the plan). It was also possible to get to the House with the relief of Telef, where the family of Proconsul Balba lived. The second service area is located on the south side of the lobby (also painted blue on the plan). There were boilers for heating water. Room (d) is beautifully lit by daylight. The walls had large panoramic windows overlooking the Gulf of Naples. The room was apparently just used to relax and have a friendly conversation among the visitors of the Suburban Term. The walls, plastered and with pilasters, supported artificial entablature under the vaulted ceiling.

A door from the lobby leads to a large vaulted room (e) with a beautiful marble floor, which served as a combined apoderium and frigidarium. There is a cold pool on the east side of the room (pictured right). The doorway on the north side of the room remains clogged with volcanic debris from the eruption (pictured left).

The room is decorated in a fourth style with red panels and marble panels. A door on the south side of the room opens into the tepidarium (e). This vaulted room is decorated with stucco figures of warriors. Marble benches stand along the walls.

On the west side of the tepidarium, a door leads to a vaulted caldarius (g), which has an apse on the south wall, and a marble hot pool on the north wall. The walls are decorated with caldaria numerous small stucco panels marble on the walls and on the floor. To the east of tepidarium is room (h) with a large heated pool (photo below). The vaulted ceiling of the room is decorated with ribbed stucco, and light entered the room through four large windows in the walls, two of which are installed in the apse.

In the northeast corner of the room is a doorway that leads through to Laconicum (I), a small round room with very dry heating, that is, an ancient Roman bath.