The Baths of Diocletian were built between the third and the fourth century. The baths were the most impressive and the largest of the imperial baths of Rome. They were commissioned originally in 298 AD by Emperor Maximian in honor of Diocletian, his co-emperor that never visited the city of Rome.
The Baths of Diocletian — like the baths of Caracalla — were constructed with bricks. The exteriors of the bricks were designed with white stucco, which makes the building look like it was built of white marbles while the interiors were made of marbles. The Baths of Diocletian were constructed by over ten thousand Christians who had been forced by Diocletian to perform the back-breaking task consistently.
The Baths of Diocletian were larger but has the same rooms and layouts as the other baths like the Baths of Caracalla, the Baths of Trajan and the Baths of Titus. The Baths of Diocletian were able to contain over three thousand bathers at the same time. The capacity of the bath was the double of that of Caracalla. The baths were consistently used until 537 AD when the Ostrogoths King Vitiges cut off the water supply to the city of Rome. Some of the structures of the Baths of Diocletian has been torn down or fallen down over the years. So, basically, what is left are partial ruins and carved up pieces that have been put together and reworked as exhibits.
Bathing was a social activity for the Romans in the ancient days. The gorgeous ancient bathing complexes of the city are obvious evidence of this. The bathing ritual involves men and women bathing separately. However, the people visited the baths not just to relax and get clean, but to gossip, recount daily events, discuss politics and socialize. The Baths of Diocletian and other baths in the city, were also visited as leisure and fitness centers. The baths had several facilities which included sports facilities, swimming pools, meeting halls, libraries, complexes, and massage rooms.
The Baths of Diocletian measured 316 meters wide and 356 meters long. Some of the parts of the baths complex that have been incorporated into new buildings include the Aula Ottagona, the pantheon-esque San Bernardo alle Terme church and the Santa Maria degli Angeli. The church of Santa Maria degli Angeli was constructed on the site of the Diocletian Baths’ frigidarium, and it incorporates many elements of the old thermae. The church was constructed in 1561 by Michelangelo. The Museo delle Terme di Diocleziano is also located on a part of the old baths. It is one of the most import antiquity museums in the world with gorgeous epigraphic collections and it provides an insight into the lifestyles of the ancient Roman people.
Due to the so many changes on the site, the Baths of Diocletian is complex and requires the help of a guided tour to be able to have a full knowledge of the attraction.