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The History

Discover the origin of the ‘Aquae Patavinae’ and the history of the Euganean thermal area...

 

ceramica5 montirone1 P1040788 P1040747 cer_fusaiola orologio_0

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Archaeological site at viale Stazione / via degli Scavi
Montegrotto Terme, 1st century B.C. – 3rd century A.D.

The ruins of a wide bath complex, built in the second half of the 1st century B.C. and afterwards enlarged and employed until the 3rd century A.D., are still visible in the state-owned area between viale Stazione and via degli Scavi. Some buildings are preserved: three big pools equipped with water adduction and draining system, a little theatre, a building with a central circular basin and side apses, and other complementary structures.


Storia degli Studi

The estate was firstly subject of excavation between 1781 and 1788, when the owner, the Paduan aristocrat Giovanni Dondi dell’Orologio, decided to take action owing to the continuous emerging of remarkable ancient finds. The pools, still covered with splendid polychrome marbles, were discovered on that occasion, along with a certain number of items, among which a male statue.

The map drawn at that time by Salvatore Mandruzzato is a precious document, because it includes structural parts today lost. With the passing of time, the site became the object of several sacks, and was consequently buried. In 1953, during construction work in the area, other ancient buildings emerged: as a consequence of this, the site was firstly bound (D.M. 3rd April 1954, D.M. 4th February 1967, D.M. 20th August 1968) and subsequently acquired as a state property (1977, 1985, 1986). The systematic excavation of 1965 proved that the remains found in the Fifties were part of a little theatre, and brought again to light the pools discovered in the 18th century and the rectangular room westwards. Later excavations brought to light the water adduction system of the pools (1968), the building with apses (1970) and ta building that may be a portico (1994-1995).


Descrizione

Età romana

Today, the bath complex of via degli Scavi is witnessed by three pools (A, B, C). Pool A, only partially visible, had a rectangular shape and was inserted into an apsed room; the apse was located on the lost short side, while four bases, presumably for decorative sculptural elements or columns, were situated at the back of the pool, on the opposite short side. Pool B, only partially visible, also had a rectangular shape and curvilinear short sides; the room where it was located had two apses and a wide niche on one of its long sides. Pool C, fully visible, had a round shape and took entirely the room in which it was inserted; this room was characterized by a particularly mighty perimeter wall. In all three pools, the pool-level was accessible through one or more stairways.
The bath complex was complemented by a series of rooms, located between pools B and C and in front of pool C. It is not excluded that the complex could rose around an open space; however, this hypothesis comes exclusively from Mandruzzato’s map, and is not verifiable any longer. The pools could be either outdoors or indoors: the second thesis seems to be the most plausible, owing to the presence of buttresses beside pools A and C. However, studies concerning this matter are currently in progress.
A thick system of pipes (G) connected the pools with a hydraulic wheel (“noria”), presumably located in room H; this room is still preserved not far from the pools.
The only remains of the little theatre (E) are the foundations of the stage building and the concrete casting that held up the tiers of the cavea. Originally, the building was completely covered with decorated marbles, and richly embellished with precious paintings, stuccoes and other ornaments. The cavea had a seating capacity of some hundreds of people. The performances took place on the long, wide and low stage, which stood in front of the cavea; behind the stage stood the brick façade (“scaenae frons”), which had three doors and several decorative niches. The preparatory phases of the performance occurred in the long room located behind the façade, while the two symmetrical rooms that externally embraced the cavea were presumably employed as “foyers”. As a matter of fact, these supposable “foyers” were the point of departure of the corridors which directly brought to the semicircular space at the foot both of cavea and stage (namely, the orchestra). In the Latin theatre tradition, the orchestra could be occupied either by the most distinguished spectators, who sat on mobile seats (“subsèllia”), or by the musicians who accompanied the performance. Performances generally consisted of singing shows, mimes, dances and recitative reading.
The buildings standing at the top of the cavea were a later addition; they presumably supported a royal box (“tribunal”) or a little temple (even if this second hypothesis is rather doubtful). The rooms beside the north “foyer” were added even later.
Building D, preserved only at foundation level and currently in restoration, is the most mysterious remnant of the whole site. Certainly, there was a series of rectangular rooms that overlooked an open-air square court with a central circular basin. Other basins were presumably located in the two apses of the building and at least in some of the rooms overlooking the court. This building was supposed to be a complementary recreational area of the bath complex.
Building F, preserved only at foundation level too, is characterized by the peculiarity of its plan: the sequence little/big of the north side matches the reversed sequence big/little of the south side. In the past, this pattern supported the hypothesis that the building could be the changing room of the bath (“apodyterium”), with two differentiated entrances for men and women. Today, this interpretation is doubtful: the building is rather considered a fairly later addition, not connected to the rest of the complex.
Among the other buildings that came to light here, the pair of parallel foundations (L) has been supposed to be the remnant of a portico that presumably delimited northwards the area where building D rose.

 

Cronologia

Pools and pipes: second half of the 1st century B.C./beginning of the 1st century A.D.; theatre: end of the 1st century B.C./beginning of the 1st century A.D., with later rebuilding (presumably 2nd century A.D. and 3rd – 4th century A.D.); building D: uncertain (presumably 2nd century A.D.); building F: uncertain (presumably 3rd century A.D.)

 

Contesto geografico ed urbanistico

The buildings rose on the plain area north of the low hill historically known as Colle Bortolone or Montegrotto.

 

Bibliografia

Delle antiche terme di Montegrotto. Sintesi archeologica di un territorio , a cura di S. Bonomi, Montegrotto Terme (PD) 1997, pp. 26-29.
I Colli Euganei , a cura di F. Selmin, Sommacampagna 2005, pp. 115.
Aquae patavinae. Il termalismo antico nel comprensorio euganeo e in Italia , in Atti del I Convegno Nazionale (Padova, 21-22 giugno 2010), a cura di M. Bassani, M. Bressan, F. Ghedini, 2011.
Bonomi S., Faleschini F., L’incompatibilità e il degrado dei materiali di restauro nell’area archeologica di viale Stazione / via degli Scavi. Il caso del teatro, in Aquae patavinae. Il termalismo antico nel comprensorio euganeo e in Italia. Atti del I Convegno nazionale, a cura di M. Bassani, M. Bressan, F. Ghedini, Padova 2011, pp. 57-63.
Bonomi S., Malacrino C.G., L’edificio per spettacoli di Fons Aponi. Considerazioni a margine dei rilievi effettuati nell’area archeologica di viale Stazione / via degli Scavi, in Aquae patavinae. Il termalismo antico nel comprensorio euganeo e in Italia. Atti del I Convegno nazionale, a cura di M. Bassani, M. Bressan, F. Ghedini, Padova 2011, pp. 29-55.
Bonomi S., Malacrino C.G., Il complesso termale di viale Stazione / via degli Scavi a Montegrotto Terme, in Aquae patavinae. Montegrotto Terme e il termalismo in Italia. Aggiornamenti e nuove prospettive di valorizzazione, Atti del II Convegno nazionale, a cura di M. Bassani, M. Bressan, F. Ghedini, Padova 2012, pp. 155-172.
Cerato I., Lucci Baldassari G., Michielin L., Pescarin S., Laser scanner e “computer vision” a Montegrotto Terme. Il caso della ricostruzione del teatro di viale Stazione, via degli Scavi, in Aquae patavinae. Montegrotto Terme e il termalismo in Italia. Aggiornamenti e nuove prospettive di valorizzazione, Atti del II Convegno nazionale, a cura di M. Bassani, M. Bressan, F. Ghedini, Padova 2012, pp. 327-339.
Lazzaro L., Fons Aponi. Abano e Montegrotto nell’antichità, Abano (PD) 1981, pp. 125-135.
Pettenò E. et alii, Il complesso termale e il teatro di viale Stazione / via degli Scavi. Nuove prospettive di studio, in Aquae salutiferae. Il termalismo tra antico e contemporaneo, Atti del convegno internazionale, a cura di M. Bassani, M. Bressan, F. Ghedini, Padova 2013, pp. 335-359.
Pettenò E., Rigoni M., Toson P., Zega L., Riapertura dell’area archeologica di viale stazione / via degli Scavi. Interventi di risanamento e di restauro, in Aquae patavinae. Montegrotto Terme e il termalismo in Italia. Aggiornamenti e nuove prospettive di valorizzazione, Atti del II Convegno nazionale, a cura di M. Bassani, M. Bressan, F. Ghedini, Padova 2012, pp. 247-255.

 
 

Accesso al sito
From via degli Scavi. It is possible to visit the area.
Access and guided visits by appointment only. Contact: Associazione LAPIS, +39 389 0235910, lapisarcheologia@gmail.com

Archivio Materiali

Provenienza: theatre area
Cronologia: 1st century A.D. (beginning of the Roman Imperial Age)


Descrizione
Almost undamaged antefix (height 13,5 cm; width 22 cm; thickness 5 cm) with a semi-oval oblate shape; a male face is represented on one side, while the joint of a tile is preserved on the opposite side. The face is round and beardless, the forehead wrinkled, the pupils pierced, the nose flat and stretched at the bottom, the mouth half-open. The face is adorned with two bunches of grapes, while two short bands cover the ears; some vine branches, depicted with hardness as they were made of metal, grow out from the grapes. Due to this kind of headdress, the portrayed character is interpreted as a satyr. The decoration is obtained by mould, that is to say by pouring the clayey mixture into a matrix suitably modelled before the cooking.

Funzione
The antefix mainly had a structural function, because it closed the channel of the last tile at the base of the roof. The representation obtained by mould added a decorative function: satyrs, as in this case, but also theatre masks, often depicted with a distorting grimace. The hideous or distorted face was apotropaic: it was believed that these faces could frighten the evil spirits intended to visit the house or building where they were put on display.
The antefixes with satyr face were rather frequent in this area, while they do not have precise counterparts in the rest of the Roman world – even if the subject of the Dionysian character can be found in contemporary Pompeian exemplars.


Luogo di Conservazione: Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici del Veneto, storage area
Provenienza: The statue was discovered in 1766 by some farmers, in an estate at that time owned by the Dondi Dall’Orologio family; this place was supposedly located between Colle San Pietro Montagnon and Colle Bortolone (even if it is not possible to locate the exact place of the discovery).
Cronologia: 125-150 A.D.


Descrizione
Sculpture made from a unique fine-grained marble block, representing a standing man of a ripe age (height 1,99 m). His bust is naked, while the bottom part of his body is wrapped in a cloak, which rises up and covers the left shoulder. The face, framed by a luxuriant head of curly hair and a bushy short beard, is slightly turned rightwards; the nose is hooked; the wide-open eyes present a hint for the pupil and a thin incision to mark it; the supple lips are half-open. The feet solidly stand on the base; the right arm leans on a vase, which stands on a quadrangular little pillar; the left arm, bent at elbow-level, stands up and holds an object (currently lost).
The statue is almost undamaged: only the left hand and the fingers of the right hand are lost. The body still looks fresh, while the face seems slightly worn – perhaps because of corrosive agents in the soil.

Funzione
The statues could be found either in a private place or in a public context; they generally stood on bases with inscription and had a decorative function, but they also served people as a reminder of the merits of the portrayed person.
Considering that the optimal point of view to observe the statue in question is from below, it had to be presumably located on a rather high base and inside a niche – as it is attested by the back of the body, carved less precisely.
It is therefore impossible to determine which building the statue could adorn: it presumably came from a bath complex, as suggested by the presence of the turned vase.
The oversized dimensions and the good quality of the marble suggest that the customer was fairly wealthy. On the other hand, the sculptor did not seem to be extremely talented; as a matter of fact, his inexperience is witnessed by the arms, scarcely in proportion with the rest of the body. The portrait head is instead of better quality: it shows the face of a middle-aged man, with his intense eyes turned upwards. The iconographic style is original: it seems to be inspired to a pattern generally used for godheads and women, rarely recurring in men’s representations. It is clear that the customer made a precise choice, imposing his own iconographic solution, that is to be represented under the form of some personification linked to the local thermal waters; this is perhaps the reason of the incertitude of the sculptor, owing to the lack of previous similar patterns.


Luogo di Conservazione:
Provenienza: theatre area
Cronologia: 1st – 2nd century A.D. (Roman imperial age)


Descrizione
Pilaster-strip capital made of Luni white marble, undamaged. A bas-relief is visible on the displayed side of the item: it represents a two-handled cup, exteriorly decorated with fluting tongues and supported by sinuous plant elements – which merge in the middle to form an acanthus leave. The cup is foreshortened and shows its contents (water).

Funzione
The capital stands above a vertical component of architectural structures such as columns, pillars or – as in this case – pilasters. A pilaster is a sort of pillar englobed in the wall and slightly protruding from the wall surface. In this context, the pilaster has a predominant decorative function; the employed technique and the decorative pattern depend on the personal taste of the customer, and changes depending on the historical moment.


Luogo di Conservazione: Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici del Veneto, depositi