The Turkish capital of Ankara has been inhabited by countless kingdoms and empires over the centuries, the remnants of which are still standing intact or scattered around downtown Ankara. The Roman Bath Open Air Museum Complex is the most vivid reminder of the ancient forefathers of Ankara and is a testament to the Romans who were once here.
In this article, I will share everything you’ll need to know about the Roman Bath Open-air Museum including practical information for visitors and tourist organization of the area. So, after reading this article, you will not need any additional sources.
The Roman Bath Open-air Museum Complex
The open-air museum complex is spread over a vast area of 65,000m2 in the historical vicinity of Ulus, in central Ankara. Surrounded by residential areas and abutting one of the busiest avenues of the city, Çankırı Avenue, the Roman Bath Open-Air Museum offers a remarkable atmosphere for its visitors.
The site comprises of 4 main areas: The Roman bath structure, stonework exhibitions, the Byzantine grave room, and the Balgat Roman grave ruins.
The Roman Bath
The Roman Bath of Ankara, a 3rd century bath complex, was built during the reign of the Roman Emperor Caracalla (188-217 AD), son of Emperor Septimius Severus. Just like the ancient settlement of Asklepion in the Western Turkish province of Izmir, the Roman bath was also built in honor of the Greco-Roman God of Medicine, Asclepius. With a floor plan measuring 140×180 meters, it is the main attraction in the area and one of the biggest ancient baths in Turkey.
Upon visiting the bath structure, I was marveled by how advanced and complex it had been built. Despite being almost 2000 years old, the Roman bath was constructed by taking every possible need of an average Roman at the time into account. The bath includes a Frigidarium (cold room), a Piscina (swimming pool), an Apodyterium (changing rooms), a Tepidarium (warm room) and a Caldarium (hot room). The most impression feature of this complex that struck me was that the hot room of the bath was built bigger compared to cold and warm rooms on account of Ankara’s severe winter conditions. Moreover, the Romans used a terracotta pipe system that allowed hot air to be distributed within the walls and flooring of the structure equally. Quite impressive, isn’t it?
Almost every nook and corner of the museum abounds with ancient stone artefacts unearthed during archeological excavations. Mainly, the stoneworks consists of grave steles, epitaphs, sarcophagi, and fragments of ancient structures. The stoneworks are displayed on either side of the walking path that starts from the ticket booth and leads visitors through all the attractions in the open-air museum.
Deciphering the tombstone of a 13-year-old child
The inscriptions on this tombstone, dating back to Roman era, translate to: “Niketes, the veteran of the I. Parthica Legions and Kale, his mother, for their own sweetest child, Castrensis, who lived 13 years and was adorned with all the grace of knowledge and education. Be happy sweet child, no one in immortal.”
The Byzantine Grave Room
During construction work in the area at the end of the 1930’s, a chamber with two vaulted tombs was discovered. Presumed to be built in the 3rd or 4th century AD, the chamber is thought to have belonged to people of influence in ancient Ankara. It is situated on the southern part of the site.
Balgat Roman Tomb
Balgat Roman Tomb was discovered in 1998. Dating back to the 2nd century Roman era, the tomb is assumed to have belonged to a wealthy family. Numerous artifacts such as gold diadems, rings, earrings, bronze vessels, perfume bottles, glass bottles, and animal shaped jugs were acquired by the excavation crew, and today they are being displayed at the world-renowned Anatolian Civilizations Museum in Ankara.
As I was walking around, I was surprised to see approximately a dozen tombstones with inscriptions in Armenian carved on them. The inscriptions had contemporary dates from the 19th and 20th centuries, however they were tagged as grave steles from the Roman era. After a little research, I learned that these tombstones were brought from Stanoz.
Stanoz was a prosperous Ottoman village inhabited primarily by Armenians back in the previous centuries. Due to treasure hunters who illegally dig the old Armenian cemetery in hopes of finding gold or other valuable artefacts, the state has transferred some of these historic tombstones to the yard of the Roman Bath Open-Air Museum Complex.
Information About Visiting
The Roman Bath can be visited between 10 am and 7 pm in summers (April 1- Nov 1) and between 8.30 and 5 pm in winters (Nov 1- April 1). The ticket costs 10 Turkish liras ($1.30 or €1.10) or free for Museum Pass owners. Click here to get all the necessary information about the Museum Pass.
Where is the Roman Bath Open-Air Museum?
It is situated in the district of Ulus, the heart of Ankara. Due to its central location, getting there is quite simple.
By public transportation
State buses and minibuses pass by the site very often. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, unannounced changes might occur in the bus schedules. Click here to access the updated bus schedule from the website of the Municipality of Ankara.
The closest metro station to the Roman Bath Open-air Museum is the ASKI Station which is only 10 minutes away by walk.
From Kızılay or any of the surrounding central districts, a single way to the Roman Bath would cost around 15 Turkish liras which is around 2 USD or 1.6 EURO (21 November 2020 rates). Click here to calculate taxi fees in Ankara.
With your personal vehicle
Parking in Ulus is always a major problem. The narrow alleys around the Roman Bath might have suitable spots for parking, however, I certainly do not recommend it due to the fact that these are such narrow streets and parking could be a risk. The safest and the most convenient option is to leave your car to the parking lot located a couple of meters away from the site. The parking lot is not added on Google Maps, but it is impossible to miss it. The parking fee is fixed at 10 liras. So, whether you park for 1 hour or for 10 hours, you pay the same price.
What else to see around the Roman Bath Complex?
The Column of Julian, standing at the yard of the Governor’s Office in Ulus, is a 15-meter-long column that was erected to honor the Emperor Julian’s visit to Ankara in 362 AD. Abutting the column, you will find the ruins of an ancient Roman street covered with a glass deck and presumed to extend from the Roman Bath to the Temple of Augustus.
The Temple of Augustus, is a large temple that was built during the reign of the Roman Emperor Augustus between 25-20 BC. Constructure on top of an old Phrygian Temple that had been devoted to Goddess Kybele and the Lunar God, Men, the Temple of Augustus is known for beholding two epitaphs giving a detailed account of the achievements of the Emperor Augustus in both Latin and Ancient Greek.
The temple of Augustus and the Column of Julian can be visited 24/7 for free.