Sunday, 26 January 2014

Seminar report: "Roman bathing and its legacy on Crete" by Dr A. Kelly

Our 2014 seminar series began with Dr Amanda Kelly (UCD school of Classics) who gave a talk on “Roman bathing and its legacy on Crete”. This talk focused on the early Byzantine period (5-6th century) of the Island and how the tradition of public baths had survived from roman times into later periods. Dr Kelly is a former student of the college, having completed both her undergraduate degree and her masters here.

The talk was based off of Dr Kelly’s 2004 PHD work surveying the island, during which she managed to locate at least 55 roman bath sites on the island of Crete. It is a testament to the results of Dr Kelly’s research that no bathhouses had been identified prior to her work and goes to show that Crete has a vast archaeological heritage beyond the Minoan culture it is so famed for.

Of great interest was the relationship between the topography of the land and the location of roman bathhouses. The Cretan terrain was well suited to building of Roman aqueducts, the sloping terrain providing the gravity necessary to provide water to settlements and their bathhouses.

Dr Kelly’s work is highly inspired by the work of Italian Giuseppe Gerola’s work surveying the island in 1904, who although he was focused on surveying the Venetian impact on the island, provided extensive information on repurposed sites.

Of interest was what Dr Kelly described as the symbiosis of Roman bath and Early Byzantine church architecture – with the ecclesiastical community having baths named after saints and overall showing a tolerance of the bathing tradition, even into later periods.

Dr Kelly’s lecture was an interesting look into a period of Cretan archaeology that is often overshadowed by the legacy of Minoan archaeology on the island. The UCD archaeology society and the department of Archaeology would like to thank Dr Kelly for taking the time to present her work and wish her the best of luck in future research. 

By Stephen Domican

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