Begun by the emperors Diocletian and Maximian in 302 A.D. and finished in the year 305.
These baths, the largest of ancient Rome, covered an area of about 440.000 square yards and they could accommodate 3200 bathers at the same time.
A great part of thermae of Diocletian is occupied now by the: National Roman Museum.
Rome – National Roman Museum
The museum is a precious collection of the works of art discovered in the excavations of Rome and its surroundings, since 1870. This first collection was enriched by the addition of the “Ludovisi Museum” bought by the Italian government in 1901.
On entering the museum we cross several halls once “Apoditerio” or dressing-room of thermae. These halls have imposing vaults giving us an idea of the development of the Roman architecture of the Emperor Diocletian. They contain a collection of sarcophagi and mosaic floors belonging to the 2nd and 3rd century.
After having crossed these halls we reach the garden, from which on our left, we enter the museum.
Discobolus a celebrated copy of the Discobolus by Myron, found at Castel Porziano, in the hunting park of King Victor Emanuel III° who presented it to the Museum.
The Niobede: one of the daughters of Niobe struck by the arrows of Dianaat the moment of falling and trying to wrest the arrow from the wound. The statue considered to be an original Greek work of the 5th century B.C., was found among the ruins of Sallustian Gardens. The greatest merit of the statue is the wonderful rendering of action of falling and the anatomy of the beautiful body; the statue was probably one of the many figures decorating the front of some building and representing the massacre of the daughters and sons of Niobe.
Dancer of the palatine.
A beautiful girl represented in the act of dancing, dressed with a short robe forming beautiful folds.
Apollo one of the gems of the museum and perhaps the best extant representation of this God; the calm and dignified expression of the face recalls the divine majestic beauty of the famous Apollo by Phydias in the great group of Delphi, and it is supposed to be the very good copy of that bronze statue original. It was found in the Tiber broken in many pieces and restored.
Ephebus of Subiaco. A statue of marvellous beauty, one of the most valuable works of the Museum. The subject it represents is still an unsolved problem; the most probable hypothesis is that it represents one of the children of Niobe, flying from the arrows of Apollo.
The finish and refinement of the bodily forms, the perfect imitation of the softness of the flesh, the wonderful anatomical Knowledge, make of this statue one of the masterpieces of the Greek art preserved until our days. It is attribuited to the 4th cent. B.C. and was found at Subiaco, among the ruins of a Villa of Nero.
Entrance wall on the right:
Ephebus entirely nude, with only a balteus (girdle) crossing his breast. Other antiquarians, judging from the serpent on the trunk of the laurel tree, believe it to represent Apollo.
Dionisius partly covered by a skin of a goat attributed to the 4th cent. B.C. it was found in the Villa of Hadrian at Tivoli.
Head of the Venus of Cnidos which is in the Vatican Museum. Minerva, a statue of this goodness very remarkable for the beautiful clothing.
A headless dancing girl a little smaller then life size, very remarkable for the rendering of the energetic action of dancing and for the beautiful drapery.
Venus Genitrix: remark the fine robe that falling down from the right shoulder uncovers the breast. The statue is supposed to be a work of the 1st cent. B.C.
Entrance wall on the right.
Young girl sitting on a rock. The statue is supposed to represent one of the muses that formed part of the group visible for long time in the Portico d’Ottavia. Attributed to the 3rd cent. A.D.
Fanciulla d’Anzio: a splendid piece of Greek workmanship and one of the few Greek originals which came done to us. The subject the statue represents is still an unsolved enigma; the most generally accepted version is that it represents a young girl offering to a God a votive gift in a sacrificial dish. The statue, dating from the 3rd cent. B.C. was found on the sea shores of Porto d’Anzio and we are indebted of its discovery to a storm that washed away the earth which had hidden it for so many centuries.
Apollo di Nettuno. This beautiful piece of Greek workmanship was recently found et Nettuno, sixty Kilometres from Rome. It represents Apollo the God of music, poetry and eloquence.
The statue is believed to be an ancient copy in Greek marble from an original by Praxiteles as the characteristics of this great artist are clearly recognisable in every part of the body, but especially in the position of the left leg supporting the weight of the body while right one is slightly bent on the knee.
The attitude is easy, simple and perfectly true to nature. The head is treated in a most masterly manner. The exquisite finish and anatomical correctness of this work entitles it to rank amongst the most valuable masterpieces of ancient art.
Muse dressed in a light robe that shows the forms of her young female body. According to some archaeologists it belongs to the 2nd cent. B.C.
Exit wall, on the right:
Anfitrite. A goddess sitting on a throne, looking forwards and supporting her chin with her right arm. On the right there is a small Triton which looks as if pointing out and speaking to somebody in front of him. This group is attributed to the 2nd cent. B.C.
The Crouching Venus. Copy from an original attributed to the Diodalses.
Macedonian King . This statue, larger than life size, probably representing a Macedonian King, was found, together with the statue of the boxer, while laying the foundation of the Dramatic National Theatre.
Venus of Cyrene. A work of marvellous beauty and one of the many gems which once enriched the great halls of the thermae in the wealthy city of Cyrene, among the ruins of which, the statue was found.
It represents Venus Anadyomene, or Venus coming out from the sea and braiding her hair; another copy of the same Venus, in the fought wing of the cloister, where the head is still preserved, gives a better idea of the subject. The statue belongs to the best period of Greek art, (4th cent. B.C.) but unfortunately the name of the artist in unknown.
According to some authorities, it is an original, according to others, it is an ancient Greek copy of some bronze original. Apelles, the Greek painter contemporary of Praxiteles, made a picture of Venus Anadyomene say to have been inspired by the vision of the beauty of Phyrne, whom the painter was coming out from the sea, entirely nude, on the occasion of a religious ceremony in honour of Neptune. This was held in such a great consideration, that when Augustus brought it to Rome, to decorate the Temple of Julius Caesar, the picture needed a little restoration, but no artist was found all over the Roman world of that period, who would take the responsibility of repairing it.
Bacchus. Statue of young Bacchus found in the vicinity of the “Franesina”. Judging from a coin, impressed in the left leg it is believed to be an Italian work by some artist of the Campania. Remark particularly the eyes made of enamel.
Boxer: A sitting figure of a pugilist at rest, of unusual interest as it gives the opportunity of examining all the details of the boxing gloves (Cestus) used at that time in athletic games. The statue, probably, formed part of a group as is shown by the attitude of the body and expression of the face, which demonstrates clearly that the figure is represented as speaking to somebody in front of him, probably the victor or a “lanista”.
The artist has rendered with such realistic truth a hero of the Palestra by reproducing also the bruises on the nose, on the mouth, on the swollen ears and on the arms.
On one of the strings of the left hand has recently been found the name of the artist, Apollonius the son of Nextor the Athenian, the same sculptor of the Torso Belvedere of the Vatican Museum.
Retracting our steps to the Vestibule we enter on the left the 7th Room containing some fine bronze fragments of the early period of the empire. These ships or floating villas, were moored in front of another imperial villa which stretched along the shores of the lake of Nemi , on the Albano Hills, the remains of which are still visible.
These fragments were fished out in 1895; thirty-five years later, the lake was dried up and the two floating villas, after having been fished out, were preserved in a large building built purposely for them on the border of the lake.
Unfortunately on the night of the 1st June 1944 the two ships were set in fire by the retreating German troops. With the few relics that could be saved from destruction a new museum is being arraged on the shore of the lake.
The 8th room has a mosaic floor in the centre representing a shield with the head of medusa and four busts, the best of them is the one on the left representing: the Emperor Vespasian, masterpiece of the Roman portraits on account of the force of expression and character.
The Emperor Augustus, in the statue standing opposite the entrance on account of the force of expression and character.
The Emperor Augustus, in the statue standing opposite the entrance, wears the attire of the Pontifex Maximus.
On the right:
Statue of a Vestal Virgin.
This collection, founded by Cardinal Ludovisi in the first half of the 17th century, to ornament his famous villa, was once the small cloister of the ex-Carthusian monastery.
The mosaic floor, one of the largets in existence, measuring nearly 400 square metres, was found in the excavation of “Castel Porziano” the hunting park of king Victor Emanuel III, among the ruins of an ancient Roman bathing establishment. It represents hunting scenes of amphitheatres and mythological subjects, and was presented by the king to the museum.
Beginning by the first wing right on entering:
Beautiful female Statue remarkable for the drapery and the noble dignified attitude, dating from the Greek archaic period, 5th cent. B.C.
Mercury as the God of eloquence, attributed to the first manner of Phidias, when he was still under the influence of the art of Myron.
Minerva a Hellenistic copy by Antiochios of the famous Minerva by Phidias, which ornamented the temple of the goddess at Athens. On the drapery near the right foot is the name of the copyst.
Efebus. A young man seated on the floor, supposed to represent an Efebus. The statue is very much restored.
The Gaul. A colossal grouprepresenting a conquered leader of the Gauls, supporting with his left arm his dead wife, whom he has just killed, while he is stabbing himself with his right hand, rather than surrender to the victor. The group, a beautiful piece of Hellenistic workmanship, is a copy from the famous bronze originals (to which belonged also dying Gaul of the Capitoline museum ) which Attalus king of Pergamus erected in the Temple of Athena Polias in this city and in the Acropoli of Athens, un 250B.C., to commemorate the victories he gained over the Galatians, when they invaded Asia. The original was the work of four artists of the school of Pergamus: Antigonos, Phyromacos, Epigonos and Stratonikos. The group, although spoiled by the erroneous restoration of the right arm of the man and the left arm of the woman, is very impressive and most noteworthy fro the wonderful rendering of the determined and ferocious expression on the barbarian’s face.
In the next cabinet, right, is the:
Birth of Venus. The marble throne we see before us, is one of the greatest works of early Greek art, probably used as a pedestal for a statue and representing the birth of Venus, a delicate piece of workmanship of the 5th cent. B.C. This charming work in pentelic marble has on the sides two reliefs, one representing a priestess in the act of offering incense, the other figure of a girl playing the double flute.
The throne is a fine and rare specimen of the developed Greek archaic art, as is demonstrated by the inexperience shown in the eyes which are represented straight in the faces on profile.
The fomuos Ludovisi Juno. A colossal head of a goddess, calm, solemn and dignified, an archaic Greek original of the early part of the 5th century B.C. Although generally known under the name of Juno, opinions vary very much as to the subject the statue was intended to represent.
Mars. The celebrated Ludovisi Mars, a very singular and peculiar representation of the God of War. The melancholy, dreamy and pensive pose of the young Mars, which has nothing of the martial and ferocious expression of the God of War, is explained by the presence of the Cupid who denotes that alsothe God of War is liable to undergo the influence of the little God of Love. It recalls the art of Lisippus. The most important group in the 3rd wing is: Oreste and Electra meeting each other on the tomb of their father;
The hair of Electra is cut short as a sign of mourning for the death of her father while the funeral stele. Near the leg of Oreste, indicates their father tomb. Electra is represented as urging her brother to revenge the murder of their father, by assassinating their mother Clytemnestra. The group is the work of Menelaus, an artist of the first century B.C., whole signature is visible in the support.
Large Sarcophagus.representing a battle scene between Romans and Barbarians. High up in the centre is the leader of the Romans, most likely a portrait of some Roman General. Leaving the Ludovisi collection a door at the end of a Vestibule admits us in the:
Large Cloister. This, of the simplest and purest design, ornamented by a hundred beautiful columns, is a gem af architecture and is attributed to Michelangelo who transformed a large part of the Baths of Diocletian into a Carthusian convent. The Garden in the centre, is very pretty with beautiful cypress trees, said to have been planted by Michelangelo himself. In the arcades around are collected and preserved fragments of statues, pedestals sarcophagi etc. Which, especially on the North West, are very well preserved and give an idea of the monk’s life.
In these cells the monks could live alone a life of retirement in the strictest seclusion from the outer world; every one of them having a little garden and loggia.
In second Wing of the large cloister we see the: Lid of a very rare sarcophagus of a married couple, divided by religion but united by love. The husband, who must have been a follower of Christ, wife, a pagan, was cremated and her ashes preserved in the cinerary urn in the same sarcophagus as her husband.
Further on, at the bottom of this wing, a large mosaic represents the worship of the animals sacred to the Nile.
Nearby (at the beginning of the third wing) the : Ludi seculars. This inscription, finely and magnificently cut, has great historical interest as it reminds us of the famous “Ludi Suculares” celebrated under the reign of Augustus in 17 B.C., and of the “Carmen Seculares” just written by Horace and sung by boys and girls of patrician families.