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The Bathing Complexes of Anazarbos and the Baths of Cilicia
The city of Anazarbos is located 60 km. north-east of modern Adana, close to a hill that rises more than 220 m. above the Çukurova plain. Below the plain there used to stand a Roman city covering an area of 250 acres. If we agree with Gough, we can recognize the ancient settlement of Kyinda as Anazarbos, a site that was occupied since the seventh century B.C. The city has preserved only very few traces from pre-Roman times, but in recent years the investigations carried out on site have increased our knowledge about the Hellenistic development of Anazarbos. The first certain archaeological elements related to the existence of the city are the autonomous bronze coins of the first century B.C. with the legend ANAZAPBEΩN. In 19 B.C. Anazarbos was renamed Caesarea or Caesarea Anazarbus by the Romans due to the restoration of the king Tarcondimotus II. This client kingdom, including Anazarbos, provided control of the eastern Cilicia hinterland within the Roman Empire from the end of the first century B.C. till the third-quarter of the first century A.D. The province of Cilicia, ruled by a legatus Augusti pro praetore, was definitely constituted by Vespasian in 74 A.D. Although the capital city was Tarsus, the emperor encouraged urbanization in many other urban centers, among which was Anazarbos that profited by expanding sensibly. During the third century A.D. the status of the city was changed by Septimius Severus who gave it the title of “metropolis”, so joining Tarsus and Mopsuhestia. The following centuries were marred by a general stagnation of the city due not only to natural disasters such as earthquakes but also to foreign invasions.

The historical development of Anazarbos saw a major spread on building activities coinciding with the creation of the province of Cilicia in the Flavian period. The importance of the city continued also during the second century and the first quarter of the third century A.D., when Septimius Severus established it as a metropolis. One of the clearest evidences of the expansion of the urban area of Anazarbos can be found in the central-western part of the city where the main bath buildings of the city, the so-called North-Western and the South-Western Baths are preserved. On these complexes, together with other structures not archaeologically studied yet, the present study will be focused. The main buildings of the city were studied only partially in past years by different scholars who have traced the outline of the development of Anazarbos. However, one building category less studied on site is the baths, which have not been excavated or thoroughly investigated yet.

The archaeological investigations carried out in previous years have allowed scholars to identify more than 30 brick buildings (ziegel bauten) that have no precise chronological assessment and whose use has not yet been clarified. Some of these, built during the Roman period, could be identified as bathing complexes. Apart from the two aforementioned imperial baths, two more bathing complexes have been identified - the Little Western Baths and the Northern Baths - each one with structural peculiarities. A survey conducted by the present author on the area of Anazarbos during the summer of 2012 permitted the identification of four buildings (probably five) that have been interpreted as bathing complexes.

The first of these is the South-Western Baths located at the center of the city close to the main colonnaded street. It is one of the main buildings of the site and the second largest bathing complex. The building was constructed using black pumice as an internal element for the vaults of the roof, and for this reason it has been dubbed “the black pumice Baths”. The use of the pumice, as highlighted by Spanu, is a specific technique of Cilicia since the vaults of the building, most of which have collapsed due to damage, are made with this stone. The surviving structures are related to the heated rooms of the complex, built in bricks of different colors and dimensions.

The second one, further north, are the North-Western Baths, located not so far from the city’s main north-south colonnaded street. The complex, identified and partially analyzed by Michael Gough and Paolo Verzone, is the biggest bath complex of the city. The building occupies an area of 40x25 m.; along its western side there is the main chamber with a big cold pool that was accessible from the south and west. From the west a passage led into the caldarium that occupied the south-eastern part of the building; north of the caldarium there was the tepidarium. Our macroscopic analysis of the mortar used for the construction of the brick walls permitted us to distinguish three different types. First, the mortar used for the passageway opened between the tepidarium and the caldarium is grey, very soft, sandy (the sand comes probably from a nearby river instead of the sea which is further away) and very depurated since few traces of inclusions are visible, of which most are of limestone. Second, along the upper part of the walls another type of mortar is recognizable, which is very compact and presents very small ceramic fragments (less than 1 mm.) as well as some other little stone inclusions of various colors and limestones. Third, the vaults are constructed with a very compact pinkish-grey mortar and white quicklime whose inclusions inside, above all stones, have a small granulometry (less than 1 mm.).

The third baths, the so-called “Little Western Baths”, are located north-west of the North-Western Baths. In previous years the complex was interpreted simply as a “brick structure” without any kind of details about its ancient use. Some architectural and structural elements, however, can highlight its function and better clarify its destination. The building, the smallest one of the city, is composed of two adjacent and vaulted rooms on the eastern part of the structure with an elongated room to the west in a transverse position compared to the other chambers. A rectangular water reservoir located north-west of the bigger room is also related to the complex. Part of the vaults of the two adjacent rooms was constructed with black pumice. The entrance to the complex was on the south judging by the proximity on this side of a colonnaded street. Presumably, before reaching the three still visible rooms, there were some other chambers used as vestibule, service areas and corridors to the east.

The fourth bathing complex is the so-called “Northern Baths”. The complex is the northernmost bath building identified up to date in the ancient settlement of Anazarbos. The structure, completely constructed with brick facing, preserves the remains of six rooms of different shapes and sizes, and to the north a water reservoir probably connected to the baths has been identified. The northern complex encountered more interpretation difficulties than any other building investigated on site. The surviving walls do not show any kind of traces of a tubulatio system, making it difficult to determine with certitude the nature of the complex. Later phases, well recognized on site, may also have changed the original structure of the building.

Concerning the chronology of the bathing complexes of Anazarbos, thanks to the analysis of the architectural elements and the construction techniques, it has been possible to recognize the specific layout and pattern of the baths of the city. Determining the chronology for the buildings investigated is very hard without any new archaeological investigations. However, the history of Anazarbos and its remains on site could provide a more precise chronological definition. The expansion of the city during the third century A.D. could have been accompanied by an architectural development in which some of the baths studied were constructed. The two biggest baths of Anazarbos, the South-Western and the North-Western Baths, according to their topographic position at the centre of the city, were built probably during the second century A.D. For the Little Western Baths and the Northern Baths we propose a second-third century A.D. chronology because of their position away from the city centre.

The overall study of the main characteristics of Cilician baths with their specific layouts and architectural elements, together with a historical study of Anazarbos during the Roman and Early Byzantine times, allow us to understand better the development of the city’s bath buildings. Thanks to the similarities recognized between the baths of Anazarbos and other buildings such as those of Elaiussa Sebaste, a new typology for the Cilician imperial baths with a similar planimetric development can be proposed.

Dr. Emanuele Casagrande Cicci,
“Sapienza” University of Rome, Italy
E-mail: e.casagrande.cicci@gmail.com

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