The Roman Baths of Mylopotamos: a distribution study.

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Title: The Roman Baths of Mylopotamos: a distribution study.
Authors: Kelly, Amanda
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Date: 30-Oct-2003
Online since: 2019-04-15T11:20:39Z
Abstract: The eparchy of Mylopotamos is home to a cluster of Roman baths including examples at Eleutherna, Stavromenos, Chamalevri, Alpha and Plaka Kalis. Furthermore, Roman baths have also been identified at Sybritos and Vizari located south of the modern boundaries of the province, but are best understood as part of this larger regional concentration. This article examines this notable concentration of Roman baths through an appraisal of their common heating system. This heating system is characterised by the application of clay spacer pins to the main architectural walls of the bathhouse. These spacer pins secure a parallel screen wall, composed of a series of large flat tiles, which creates a cavity allowing for the circulation of hot air generated in the hypocaust of the bath. This heating system, incorporating the use of spacer pins, is not exclusively restricted to the Mylopotamos region but represents the characteristic Roman bathhouse heating system of the island of Crete. In the wider empire, spacer pins have been found in baths in North Africa, Israel, Cyprus, Rhodes, and Asia Minor, but not elsewhere. The dense distribution of this heating system across Crete contrasts starkly with its apparent rarity on mainland Greece (where a preference for spacer tubes and tubuli / box tiles is demonstrable). Wider imperial distribution of spacer pins supports direct connections and influence between Crete and Asia Minor (particularly in Lycia), and to a lesser extent, North Africa. There are clear economic benefits to the use of spacer pins in bathhouse heating systems as they could be produced quickly, efficiently and economically on a large scale in Crete. Their production is confirmed in many of the major sites of production of amphorae on the island, being securely identified at Chersonisos, Tsoutsouros, Dermatos and Gortyna.This coupling of the manufacture of spacer pins with amphora production sites establishes their manufacture on an intense island-wide scale during the 2nd and 3rd century BC, which also corresponds to a period of extensive construction of public baths across the island. The grouping in Mylopotamos represents the densest inland bathhouse concentration on the island, and, since a public bath, no matter how small, was necessary for civic esteem in the Roman period, as it was in such visible terms that rival cities measured their status, their presence intimates that this inland area was particularly attractive for urban development. By the 3rd century AD these major sites had grown to such a size whereby they could generate small satellite settlements within their hinterlands (as possibly represented by the baths of Vizari and Alpha). This dynamic is a testimony to the success of the Roman urban pattern in Crete, which not only created urban structures but also transformed rural life, and establishes Eleutherna as one of the most dominant cities in Crete during the imperial period.
Type of material: Conference Publication
Publisher: Historical and Folklore Society of Rethymno
Keywords: Roman bathsMylopotamosCreteBathhouse heating system
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Language: en
Status of Item: Not peer reviewed
Conference Details: International Conference for Mylopotamos, Crete, 24-30 October 2003
Appears in Collections:Archaeology Research Collection

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