Regimental Bath-House at Bearsden Roman Fort on the Antonine Wall.

This evening, I am focusing on the Roman Bath-House at Bearsden, about six miles north of  Glasgow, S.W. Scotland. This was discovered as recently as 1973. Location is on the appropriately named Roman Road which follows the line of the Roman Military Way, a communication line for the Antonine Wall.

This structure was an annexe attached to the Roman Fort in turn one of possibly twenty-six such forts  forming an integral part of the Antonine Wall which was commissioned in 142 AD by the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius. For approximately twenty years the Antonine Wall was a military zone which formed the northern frontier of the Roman Empire.

Bearsden Roman Bath-House

Key facts concerning the Roman Fort at Bearsden:

  • Attached to the rear of the Wall and was made of turf on a stone base.
  • The complex included barrack blocks, stables, storehouses, workshop and granaries.
  • Was of modest size compared to some other forts and was maybe the base for just a detachment of troops, possibly from the Fourth Cohort of Gauls, a mixed cavalry and infantry unit.

Roman Bath-House at Bearsden, Scotland

Key facts concerning the Bath-House at Bearsden

  • Built of timber and stone. Latter material used for the heated rooms to minimise the risk of fire.
  • The walls were plastered on the inside with roof of thatch or shingle. Latrines were thatched.
  • The bather would enter a timber changing room then continue into a cold room from where he could move into a hot, dry room (caldarium) or continue into a steam range. The floor of the hot room was heated to such a temperature that sandals would be needed. The steam range contained three rooms of increasing warmth which were heated by hot air ducts under the raised floors.
  • Passing through the various stages was a relaxed and quasi social event during which oils and a scraper (strigil) would be used to clean the skin.
  • Finally, the bather would avail of a cold dip in the Frigidarium before dressing and returning to duty.

The bathing process is very similar to a modern-day Turkish Bath.

Video clip of the baths

Military Diet

Adjacent to the Bath-House is the latrine which estimates suggest could have sufficient space for nine soldiers to use at once. Analysis of the sewage at Bearsden has provided a very useful insight in to the diet and condition of Roman soldiers with indications they (the soldiers) were infested with both whipworm and roundworm. There is evidence of a varied diet  including wheat, barley, bean, fig, dill, coriander, opium poppy (possibly for seasoning), raspberry, bramble (blackberry), wild strawberry, bilberry, celery and hazelnut. Some of these food items may have been imported from the borders of the Mediterranean region.

Commercial Activity

Pottery was used extensively during the Roman period. One enterprising potter named Sarrius appears to have established a workshop at Bearsden where many of his wares have been found. He also had workshops near modern-day Leicester and Doncaster both of which have Roman origins.

Roman Potter (from exhibition on Hadrian’s Wall).

Overall, a fascinating site for students of the Roman period.Entrance is free and the site is open 24/7.

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