Archaeology Odyssey 2:1, Winter 1999

Field Notes

By Ronan James HeadThomas G. Palaima

Archaeology Odyssey

Have Archaeologists Found the Famous Baths of Chiusi?

For over a hundred years, archaeologists have been searching for the ancient cold-water springs of Chiusi, in eastern Tuscany about 50 miles southeast of Siena.

In the first century B.C., the Romans developed a liking for cold-water baths as a cure for stomach problems and headaches—and Chiusi was a favorite place to soak and shiver. The poet Horace (65–8 B.C.) praised Chiusi over the more traditional hot springs of Baiae: “Antonius Musa makes Baiae / Useless to me and even makes me unpopular there, / Now that at mid-winter I soak in icy water.”

But it was Emperor Augustus (27 B.C.–14 A.D.) who made cold baths a national passion. His physician, the Antonius Musa mentioned by Horace, recommended a cold mineral bath as a cure for an abscessed liver. When Augustus survived the painful ailment, Musa became rich, and his cure became fashionable.

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