In preparation for our descent

Current plans

Before examining the tunnel complex let us familiarise ourselves with the areas around the various rooms at the surface and entrances to the tunnel complex.

The following plan is from the guide: 'Baia, the castle, museum and archaeological sites' by Paola Miniero.

The plan

Piccole Terme Baia plan

The three access passages are shown in green, the leftmost one, ie southern, being the main entrance. As can be seen, this also extends eastwards as well as into the hill. This extension will be described elsewhere in due course.

A clarification of the surface buildings

Piccole Terme Baia plan lower level

Here 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.

Signs of adaptation and repairs can be seen in photographs of the site, but these are hard to make sense of due to the ruined condition of the buildings and a patchwork of repairs made after earthquakes.

Areas of the plan in grey indicate areas behind the cliff, inside the hill.

At the southern end of the buldings 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 the building which has the Greek blockwork, thus called by Doc Paget the 'Greek Temple'. The suggestion made to Paget by a site curator in the early 1960s was that this was originally a 'Samnite Temple'.

Ancient stonework expert M. W. Frederiksen visited Baia, examined the large stone blocks and suggested that these were the remains of the cella of a Greek temple. They are fastened with metal staples consistent with ancient Greek practice, as can be seen on 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.

We shall see, once we descend to the tunnels, that 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.

Additional features

Doc Paget had the agreement of the Superintendent for Antiquities in his day to explore further and had access to areas off-limits today, especially to the higher terraces. These were in a private farmer's hands and no doubt could be casually explored to an extent by Doc Paget, but have now been purchased and incorporated into the current archaeological park.

What are missing from the plans today are a number of features at a terrace level above these buildings, which appear to be related to the tunnels into the hillside.

When the Roman baths were built, the tunnel entrances were blocked off, with the exception of the Greek Temple entrance where we clearly see an extension passage to a building that is obviously Roman and so we can reasonably assume a continued use of the tunnel into the hill in Roman times, or perhaps a later revival of its use. If this was the case, then Roman access could certainly have been discrete and divided by a wall from the adjoining Roman baths and even under the ruins of whatever lay above the tunnel, the Greek Temple.

Piccole Terme Baia plan with upper terraces

Features not shown on the 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.

In brief, from left to right

  • At the back of the Greek Temple, against the cliff, is an opening on a bearing that appears to head for a place where a Roman tile can be seen set into the roof of the tunnel. This tile remains in-situ and unremoved. The passage from the Greek Temple is blocked some way in.
  • Above the main oracle is an opening to a wider chamber that Doc Paget called the Grotto. This opening is clearly visible today, although 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. This arrangement is also seen deep within the tunnel complex at a blocked inner chamber that Doc Paget called the Sanctuary.
  • Visible on the upper terrace is an entrance which leads to what Doc Paget called the South Tank. There is a small platform here with steps leading down to the bottom. A water conduit, too small for a human, connects the base of the South Tank with 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 where 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 with irregular stones. Doc Paget was able to squeeze through. This was the foot of a stairway leading up to where he found 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 extended forward here at one time, separating the two, thus a narrow passage was formed leading to the stairway. This wall must have been removed before the addition of the niche, as the niche partially obscures where the wall once sat.

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.

Angular measurements

Doc Paget named the tunnels according to the compass directions they followed.

Compass rose

The Great Antrum, the long entrance tunnel, is thus called 270, as it lies on 270º.

The descent to the Styx is called 290, on 290º.

The twin return tunnels from the Sanctuary are called North and South 120.

(North and South 120 are on 300. Paget was working from the Sanctuary, the opposite direction. 180º rotated, thus 300º-180º gives Doc's 120.)

Under the Greek Temple

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