Cambridge University

Ax:son Johnson Centre for the Study of Classical Architecture

Roman Baths and Agency

Baths of Caracalla by Aegidius Sadeler II, from Vestigi della antichità di Roma, Tivoli, Pozzvolo et altri luochi, 1606

Roman Baths and Agency

The Human Factor in Designing, Building, Using, Experiencing, and Maintaining Bath Buildings in the Roman Territories

International conference and round table on Roman baths

Wednesday, 18 – Friday, 20 October 2023

Rome, Italy at the academia belgica


This event is free to attend. To register, please use the link below to add your preferred sessions:

Register to attend Roman Baths and Agency


Below is the programme for the three-day conference. This information and event registration can also be found on Ghent University’s webpage.

18 October

9:00–9:15 Registration

9:15–9:30 Introduction and welcome talk

9:30–10:15 Keynote lecture 1: Maura Medri (Università degli Studi Roma Tre) — ‘Terme in città. Investimenti pubblici e privati a Ostia Antica’ (Discussion: Konogan Beaufay)

10:15–10:40 Coffee break

10:40–12:00 Session 1: Design, architects and commissioners
Chair: Janet DeLaine (University of Oxford)

  • 10:40–11:00 Virginia Garcia-Entero (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia) — ‘Terme pubbliche in Hispania: adozione e sviluppo dell’abitudine balneare’
  • 11:00–11:20 Allison Smith (Indiana University Bloomington) — ‘Reconstructing Plans: Ancient Architects, Benefactors, and the Baths of Central Italy’
  • 11:20–11:40 Silvia Gazzoli (Scuola IMT Alti Studi Lucca) — ‘Ricostruire, restaurare e decorare balnea e thermae’
  • 11:40–12:00 Discussion


12:00–13:00 Lunch

13:00–14:20 Session 2: Senses and perceptions
Chair: Werner Heinz (Independent researcher)

  • 13:00–13:20 Giacomo Savani (University of St Andrews) — ‘Rural Baths in Roman Britain: A Colonisation of the Senses
  • 13:20–13:40 Bernadette Descharmes (Technische Universität Braunschweig) — ‘Bath and Body: Martial and the sensual experience of physical flaws in the Roman bath’
  • 13:40–14:00 Gideon Nisbet (University of Birmingham) — ‘Epigram takes a bath
  • 14:00–14:20 Discussion


14:20–15:20 Session 3: Small finds in Roman baths
Chair: Karen Jeneson (Thermenmuseum Heerlen)

  • 14:20–14:40 Maryl B. Gensheimer (University of Maryland) — ‘“Cameos, intaglios… and similar materials:” Small finds, self-representation, and the lived experience of Roman baths’
  • 14:40–15:00 Stefanie Hoss (Universität zu Köln) — ‘What small finds can reveal about the life in the baths?’
  • 15:00–15:20 Discussion


15:20–15:50 Coffee break

15:50–17:10 Session 4: Adoption of bathing practices in other regions
Chair: Jens Koehler (John Cabot University)

  • 15:50–16:10 Paola Santospagnuolo (Freie Universität Berlin) — ‘The introduction of the Roman bathing culture in Sicily’
  • 16:10–16:30 Amanda Hardman (McMaster University )— ‘A new bath in town: The integration of Roman baths into Greek urban spaces
  • 16:30–16:50 Craig Harvey (University of Alberta)— ‘Balnea sine fine: Early Nabataean Adoption of Roman-style Baths’
  • 16:50–17:10 Discussion


17:10–18:00 Keynote 2 – Fikret Yegül (University of California Santa Barbara) — ‘Baths, Beds, and Beyond: Some Thoughts on ‘Hall Type’ Baths from Syria to Anatolia (and Beyond)‘ (Discussion: Sadi Maréchal)

19 October

9:30–9:45 Registration

9:45–10:30 Keynote lecture 3 – Lynne Lancaster (University of Cincinnati) — ‘Bath Construction in the Roman West: A Reflection of Human Agency and Catalyst for Innovation’ (Discussion: Konogan Beaufay)

10:30–11:00 Coffee break

11:00–12:20 Session 5: Technical matters, management of resources
Chair: Silvia Garcia Soutelo (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid)

  • 11:00–11:20 Bas Beaujean, Marta Galindo Díaz, Stef Boogers (KULeuven) — ‘Resource management and cost-efficient design in the building, modifying and functioning of the Roman Imperial Bath-Gymnasium of Sagalassos (SW Anatolia)’
  • 11:20–11:40 Gemma Jansen (Independent researcher) — ‘Operating Roman hot water boilers’
  • 11:40–12:00 Hubertus Manderscheid (Independent researcher), Matilde Carrara (Independent researcher) — ‘»Aliquid novi luxuria«. Le piscinae calidae con il c.d. samovar’
  • 12:00–12:20 Discussion


12:20–13:20 Lunch Break

13:20–14:20 Session 6: Users and usages
Chair: Giacomo Savani (University of St Andrews)

  • 13:20–13:40 Michael Mailfert (Université de Liège/Université de Strasbourg)— ‘Meeting at the thermae: A socio-spatial analysis of imperial baths in the city of Rome’
  • 13:40–14:00 Linda Dobosi (Eötvös Loránd University) — ‘Bathing soldiers – Roman military baths in Pannonia
  • 14:00–14:20 Inge Uytterhoeven (Koç University Istanbul) — ‘Bathing at Home. A Diachronic Approach to the Multiple Roles of Private Baths in Roman and Late Antique Asia Minor
  • 14:20–14:40 Discussion


14:40–15:10 Coffee Break

15:10–15:55 Keynote lecture 4: Monika Trümper (Freie Universität Berlin) — ‘Designing and Experiencing the Stabian Baths at Pompeii’ (Discussion: Sadi Maréchal)

15:55–16:15 Conclusions of the different sessions

16:15–17:00 Book presentation: Nathalie de Haan (Radboud University Nijmegen) and Kurt Wallat (Independent researcher) — ‘The Central Baths at Pompeii. The Archaeology of a Building Site’ (‘Die Zentralthermen (Terme Centrali) in Pompeji. Archäologie eines Bauprojektes’, Quasar, 2023).

17:00–18:00 Reception

20 October

9:00 – 10:30 Lightning Round

  • Catarina Felicio (Universidade NOVA de Lisboa) – Building the public balnea of Conuentus Scallabitanus (Lusitania)
  • Simeon D. Ehrlich (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) – What really happened at the bawdy baths of Ashkelon?
  • Karen Jeneson (Thermenmuseum Heerlen) – ‘A reflection of an urban society at the edge of the empire: the case of the bath house of Coriovallum’
  • Cristina Hernandez (Mt. San Antonio College, California ) – ‘Balnea Aestiva, Balnea Hiemalia: Seasonal use and sensory experience in Pompeian domestic baths
  • Monika Rekowska (University of Warsaw), Demetrios Michaelides (University of Cyprus) – Private bathing at Nea Paphos, Cyprus
  • Juhasz Lajos (Eötvös Loránd University) – Bathing in money
  • Marie Theres Wittmann (University of Oxford) – Bathing without soap? Evidence for and economic impact of ancient toiletries
  • Discussion


10:30–11:00 Coffee break

11:00–13:00 Round table discussion (Chairs: Sadi Maréchal and Konogan Beaufay)

Afternoon: optional visit to the subterranean parts of the Baths of Caracalla

Conference posters

All posters will be made available via this link:

  • Andrea Schär (Independent researcher / Associate researcher at the University of Bern) – ‘Healing baths or how the Roman bathing culture became the cornerstone of a timeless cultural phenomenon. The particular case of Baden (Switzerland)’
  • Silvia González Soutelo (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and Madrid Institute for Advanced studies), Teresa Soeiro (CITCEM-FLUP), Juan Diego Carmona Barrero (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid) and Claus Seara Erwelein (GEAAT-Uvigo) – ‘Old buildings, new discoveries. Architectonical novelties about the healing spa of Termas de São Vicente (Penafiel, Portugal)’
  • Jonas Zweifel (Freie Universität Berlin) – ‘The Baths of Invidiosus in Ostia: Adaptation and Improvisation in a changing environment’
  • Julio C. Ruiz Rodríguez (Independent researcher) – ‘Le terme pubbliche di Tarraco (Hispania citerior): i reperti scultorei’
  • Rory McLennan (The University of Queensland) – ‘Diachronic change in Roman waterproof lining technology – Evidence from the Bay of Naples and Rome’
  • Dávid Bartus, Melinda Szabó (ELTE Eötvös Loránd University) – ‘Bathing soldiers in Brigetio’
  • Alessio Galli, Chiara Mendolia (Italian Archaeological School at Athens SAIA) – ‘Bath complexes on the border between Greece and Rome: diffusion models along the Via Ionia
  • Giordana Franceschini (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen) – ‘Bathing Practices and Political Inadequacy in 6th century Constantinople: John Lydus’ account of the praetorian prefect John the Cappadocian
  • Tünde Lang (Brigetio Öröksége Látogatóközpont, Komárom – Pécs University) – ‘Roman villa baths in the Middle Danube provinces’
  • Alper Yılmaz (Ondokuz Mayıs Üniversitesi) – ‘Roman Baths of Parion in the Province of Asia: Similarities and Differences from Roman Bath Architecture’
  • Jens Koehler (John Cabot University – The American University of Rome) – ‘From Nysa to Centumcellae. Alkibiades visits the Terme Taurine’
  • Tony King (University of Winchester) – ‘Romano-Celtic Temples and Baths – orthopraxy, cleanliness and ritual dirt’
  • Angela Bosco (Università di Bologna) – ‘Planning and building a nymphaeum in a bath: the case of Terme Stabiane and Terme Suburbane in Pompeii
  • Giulia Giovanetti (Ministero della Cultura – Parco archeologico del Colosseo) – ‘’Balnea’ privati nel paesaggio urbano di Roma e Ostia in età tardoantica’
  • Giacomo Antonelli (Independent researcher) – ‘The baths of the Roman town of Ocriculum
  • Mariya Avramova (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences) – ‘The thermal complex at Starozagorski mineralni bani – a new perspective on a well-known site
  • Vane P. Sekulov (Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments and Museum – Strumica, North Macedonia) – ‘BANJA BANSKO … time flows … the spring is still there
  • Samuli Simelius (University of Helsinki) – ‘Baths for all or baths for some? Pompeian baths in relation to the population’


This conference has been organised by CSCA Ax:son Johnson Morgan Fellow Dr Konogan Beaufay and former CSCA Visiting Scholar Dr Sadi Maréchal (Ghent University).

In collaboration with Maura Medri (Università degli Studi Roma Tre)