In preparation for our descent

Current plans

The following plan is based on the one shown in the guide: ‘Baia, the castle, museum and archaeological sites’ by Paola Miniero.

Before examining the tunnel complex we can familiarise ourselves with the various rooms at the surface and the entrances to the tunnel complex.

The tunnel entrance areas

Piccole Terme Baia plan with upper terraces

I have used Doc Paget’s suggested names for the rooms in addition to the guide’s Roman bath uses which appear in Italian below them. All these buildings show signs of modification from their original purpose; however we know there were no previous completely demolished buildings on this site before the Roman bath complex was built.

Features mising on the official guide plan are shown here in purple, added from information given by Doc Paget in his book and published paper to the British School at Rome. They mainly exist at a level above the surface buildings, behind the cliff. Areas of the plan in grey indicate areas behind the cliff, inside the hill.

In brief, from left to right

  • At the southern end of the buldings, shown here in blue on the left, is to be found a ruined service staircase to an upper terrace level, currently not scalable or accessible to the public.
  • Next to the stairs is a building partially encasing ancient Greek blockwork, called by Doc Paget the ‘Greek Temple’. A site curator in the early 1960s said that this was originally a ‘Samnite Temple’. Stonework expert M. W. Frederiksen visited Baia and suggested that the large stone blocks were the remains of the cella of a Greek temple, being fastened with metal staples consistent with ancient Greek practice. (see page 178 of W. B. Dinsmoor’s book: ‘The Architecture of Ancient Greece’.
  • At the bottom of the plan we can see there is a dividing wall in the front forecourt to the buildings and the ‘Greek Temple’ area was thus totally separated from the Roman baths, without any connecting doorway.
  • At the back of the Greek Temple is an opening on a bearing that appears to head for a place where a Roman tile can be seen set into the tunnel roof.
  • Above the main oracle is an opening to a wider chamber that Doc Paget called the Grotto. This opening is clearly visible today but access to it is not possible.
  • At the back of the Grotto is a blockage. Doc Paget thought it formed a smoke face and that stale hot air from the tunnel exited behind here to a vent to the upper terrace. Set within this blockage is a square frame of four Roman tiles, set on edge.
  • On the upper terrace is an entrance to what Doc Paget called the South Tank. There is a small platform here with steps leading down to the bottom. A small water conduit connects the base of this South Tank with another, called the North Tank, through a wall 0.9 metres (3 feet) thick. At some unknown time a robber has made a crude break at the platform level to the North Tank.
  • At the south eastern corner of the South Tank there is another crude break into a curved passage. Doc Paget found that the break had been made into the tank from the passage, as the débris all lies in the passage, not the tank. It is not known how the robber entered the curved tunnel, there has since been a rockfall in the curved passage and it is blocked.
    This curved passage is likely to extend to a point behind the Grotto blockage.
  • The North Tank’s original entrance is not yet known, the robber’s break in from the South Tank platform being the only way in.
  • Adjacent to the bath in Big D is a statue niche. Within Big D was another robber’s hole, now cemented up. Doc Paget found a stairway leading up to a blocked doorway to the right. This may be the missing entrance to the North Tank.
  • Between the niche and Big D it appears that a wall once extended forward here, making a narrow passage leading to the stairway. This wall must have been removed before the addition of the Roman niche, as the niche partially obscures where the wall once sat.
  • Within the hill there is a clear demarcation line where Roman masonry gives way to tunnel walls carved out of solid tufa stone. Doc Paget surmised that this signified the ancient cliff line and entrance point. Subsequent earthquakes and rockfalls necessitated building masonry structures to bring the entrance forward to what became the modern line of the cliff face.

When the small Roman baths, ‘Le Piccole Terme’, were built, the tunnel entrances were blocked off, with the exception of the Greek Temple entrance where we clearly see an extension passage to an octagonal building that is Roman, suggesting a continued use of the tunnel into the hill in Roman times, or perhaps a later revival of its use. Access in Roman times could have been discrete and was divided by a wall from the adjoining Roman baths.

Dr. Robert Ferrand Paget

Dr Robert Ferrand Paget

Dr. Robert Ferrand Paget was responsible for undertaking detailed investigations of the areas discussed on this site in the 1960s.

Dr. Paget liked his friends to simply call him ‘Doc’, but for clarity this website refers to him as Doc Paget.

Some of Doc Paget’s theories are considered controversial, but for those who are viewing this website as a result of reading his book, ‘In the Footsteps of Orpheus’, this website uses his naming of the various features to make it easier to follow along.

For example the man-made underground water course is referred to as the ‘River Styx’ and the bricked up central chamber is called the ‘Sanctuary’, but the original usage of these features have not been confirmed.

Under the Greek Temple

The story continues with an exploration of the tunnel under the Greek Temple.


2 Responses to In preparation for our descent
  1. Jiri Branzovsky Reply

    is the Oracle of the Dead publically opened museum please?
    I dream visiting this place for a year already…
    thanks, kind regards, Jiří

    • antrum Reply

      Hi Jiri,

      There is no public access to the tunnel system at Baia. The tunnels are too narrow and dangerous to allow this. Two people cannot pass in the tunnels. You can see the entrance only.

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