Despite hundreds of years of pillaging that removed virtually all the baths' inlaid marble floors, marble wall panels, and other
decorations, sections of the mosaic floors have survived.
beautiful mosaic floors are quite impressive , and they provide a glimpse of the splendour and colours of these baths. The patterns
formed by the little tiles of these mosaics range from two-tone abstract patterns, colourful abstract patterns, and
images of sea creatures and Roman athletes.
I have included several examples of the various mosaic floor types found in the Baths of Caracalla
in the photos below.
The image below shows a great example of the abstract floor mosaics found in parts of the complex. These are black and white
mosaics, forming a kind of wave pattern. In one of the photos, they have made a wooden walkway to protect the mosaics as people
walk through the area.
The large extent of mosaic floors is impressive
In addition to black and white mosaics, the Romans also made floor mosaics that are more colourful and vibrant, as shown in the
photo below. These white, green, blue and red mosaics must have delighted many thousands of eyes over the centuries:
Colourful mosaic floor patterns of the Baths of Caracalla
In the next photo, we see more mosaics in the foreground with a large, tall staircase in the background that led to the upper parts of
the baths. These ancient stairs are covered with plant growth, and the mosaic tiles just below the stairs are also covered with a
green moss. Notice how the moss-covered tiles form a very different pattern from the mosaic tiles in the foreground. I can imagine
that staircase when these baths were young and filled with people running up and down the stairs. It is amazing and also sad
what time does to things and people.
Mosaic floor tiles before a grand staircase to the upper Baths
Image licensed from Shutterstock
The height of the staircase tells us again how large this facility was. It really must have been marvellous when it was
pristine and new. I wonder what kinds of rooms or facilities these stairs led to. I cannot imagine there were pools up there, but perhaps
there were lounges, lecture rooms, rooms for people to assemble or perhaps lodgings for the employees and slaves that maintained the
Surviving floor mosaics from the collapsed second floor
Image licensed from Shutterstock
The second floor of the Baths of Caracalla collapsed a very long time ago; however, some sections of the floor mosaics have survived, which
are shown in the photograph above. I am guessing that the upper floor collapsed during the great earthquake of 847 AD,
which caused great damage to this bathing facility and many other buildings in Rome.
This earthquake affected a wide part of central and southern
Italy, between Latium, Campania and Molise.
Although (these Baths) were stripped of their sculptures and other treasures at an early date,
there are still large fragments of mosaics, some of them corresponding to the top floor of the building, which collapsed.
In the next section, I will look at some of the more interesting mosaics of mythological figures, athletes, and floral themes.
FLORAL AND FANTASY MOSAIC DESIGNS
Not all the mosaics of the Baths of Caracalla were abstract patterns. There are also images of people and vegetation made from thousands
of little mosaic tiles. The three photos below show us an image of spiral vegetation in the centre
and an image of a human figure on either side. I am guessing
these figures are based on maritime themes of people fighting or controlling monsters of the sea.
Mosaics featuring a floral design and two figures
ROMAN ATHLETE MOSAIC DESIGNS
The detailed mosaics below were found on the floors of the Palaestrae exercise courtyards
and in the
libraries within the exterior exedra sections along the walls
surrounding the bathing complex and gardens. These images truly are mosaics made from thousands of
small tiles of different colours as shown in
this close-up image.
Several muscular athletes have their hair tied up in a
cirrus behind their heads with the hair projecting upwards (Cirri in certice), which was
typical for male athletes of that period. One of the athletes below has both arms wrapped up in a cloth cesti
protecting his arm.
Mosaic floor patterns featuring athletes & referees
On the left and right sides of the image above are referees wearing
a toga and holding something that looks like a plant frond. One of the athletes, possibly a discus thrower, is
wearing a laurel leaf crown and holding things in his hands. I am not sure what these plants represent - possibly they were
athletic awards of some kind.