Baths of Diocletian

The Baths of Diocletian were built between 298 and 306 and they are the largest in the ancient Roman world.
The main halls (frigidarium, tepidarium and calidarium) were aligned along a central axis and all the other halls were placed around this axis. In 1561 Pope Pius IV built a basilica inside the area of the Baths.
Michelangelo, commissioned to design the Church planned the main cloister using the frigidarium and the tepidarium. The small cloister occupies about a third of the natatio’s surface.


1. The Garden and Entrance Hall

2. The Epigraphic Museum

3. The Proto-History Museum

4. Michelangelo’s Cloister

5. The Small Cloister

6. The Archaeological Tour

The Garden and Entrance Hall


On the sides of the Garden entrance we can see inscribed funerary altars, among which there is the altar of Valgia Silvilla with a representation of the gates to the underworld on the rear.


Along the path leading to the museum we can see statues of togaed figures and several architectural elements.

The Epigraphic Museum

Around 900 items illustrate social, political, administrative, economic and religious aspects of the Roman world. It is one of the most important collection in the world (10.000 inscriptions).

This room presents 3 points of view of written communication used by the Romans: People who write (a man in love or a musician); what they write (a dedication or an artist’s signature); How they write (with a mould for example)

The second room is dedicated to the earliest examples of writing appearing in Latium on funerary objects dating from the 8th to the 7th centuries BC.

The room 3 contains materials and inscriptions from the mid-Republican period (4th – 3 th centuries BC), coming from Rome and some other cities of Latium. In the photo we can see a marble fountain basin inscribed on the lip with a refined technique that involved the use of letters made of metal.

The room 4 is devoted to late-Republican inscriptions (2nd – 1st centuries BC). In the documents one finds the appearance of senators involved in political competitions as in the bowls with inscriptions of electoral propaganda by Cato and Catiline.


Room 5 illustrates the figure of the emperor. Recent excavations have revealed the area of the Curiae Veteres, an ancient sanctuary founded by Romulus


Room 6, laid out along the two walkways of the first floor, illustrates the structure of Roman society (on the right the upper classes and on the left the middle classes). The central space between the two walkway is dedicated to the equestrian class and the apparitores, the magistrates assistants. The large sarcophagus with pastoral scenes was intended for Iulius Achilleus, a high-ranking official of the equestrian class.

Room 7 displays epigraphs related to the politico-administrative institutions. The tabula alimentaria contains a list of repayable loans granted to landowners and secured by mortgages on land value.


In Room 8 we find documents relating to economic activities, throwing light on various aspects of commerce, production and handicrafts in the Roman world. Evidence of slavery’s role in the economy of the Roman world is provided by a bronze collar belonging to a slave. In the event of the slave’s escape, the text promised a reward to whoever returned him to his owner Zonino.


With room 9 we enter the world of Roman religion, characerised by a great variety of cults. The large relief of Mithras Tauroctonos was found 1964 at Tor Cervara.


The proto-history museum

This section of the National Roman Museum, illustrates the development of Latial culture from the late Bronze Age (11th century BC) and Iron Age up to the Orientalising period (10th – early 6th centuries BC), through the archaeological complexes that have been found in the area around Rome.

In this period there is a profound transformation of Latium’s communities caused by contacts with Etruria to the Noth and Campania to the South, where the earliest Greek colonisation took root during the 8th century BC.


Michelangelo’s Cloister


The cloister is traditionally attributed to Michelangelo (who died in 1564) but he just received in 1561 the task of converting the frigidarium of the Baths of Diocletian into a Church. Probably Michelangelo had merely suggested the layout and then entrusted the job to a pupil, Giacomo del Duca who was involved in the work from 1565 to 1600 but the second floor of the cloister was only finished in 1676 and the fountain that stands at the center of the garden was built in 1695.


The Small Cloister

The cloister’s construction began in the second half of the 16th century, when Pope Pius IV Medici (1559-65), ordered the transformation of the central part of the Baths to create the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli.


The Archeological Tour

On the right of Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli we find the Aule delle Olearie, carried out by Clement XIII in order to ensure an efficient supply of oil to Rome. The museum also includes the so-called Octagonal Hall and the adjacent Hall of Sant’Isidoro.



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