The Baths of Caracalla (Italian: Terme di Caracalla) in Rome, Italy, were the second largest Roman public baths, or thermae, built in Rome between AD 212 and 217, during the reigns of Septimius Severus and Caracalla. They would have had to install over 2,000 tons of material every day for six years in order to complete it in this time. Records show that the idea for the baths were drawn up by Septimius Severus, and merely completed or opened in the lifetime of Caracalla. This would allow for a longer construction timeframe.
The baths remained in use until the 6th century when the complex was taken by the Ostrogoths during the Gothic War, at which time the hydraulic installations were destroyed. The bath was free and open to the public. The building was heated by a hypocaust, a system of burning coal and wood underneath the ground to heat water provided by a dedicated aqueduct. It was in use up to the 19th century. The Aqua Marcia aqueduct by Caracalla was specifically built to serve the baths. It was most likely reconstructed by Garbrecht and Manderscheid to its current place.
The baths were originally ornamented with high quality sculptures. Among the well-known pieces recovered from the Baths of Caracalla are the Farnese Bull and Farnese Hercules, now in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples; others are in the Museo di Capodimonte there. One of the many statues is the colossal 4 m statue of Asclepius.
The Caracalla bath complex of buildings was more a leisure centre than just a series of baths. The “baths” were the second to have a public library within the complex. Like other public libraries in Rome, there were two separate and equal sized rooms or buildings; one for Greek language texts and one for Latin language texts.
The baths consisted of a central frigidarium (cold room) measuring 55.7 by 24 metres (183×79 ft) under three groin vaults 32.9 metres (108 ft) high, a double pool tepidarium (medium), and a caldarium (hot room) 35 metres (115 ft) in diameter, as well as two palaestras (gyms where wrestling and boxing were practiced). The north end of the bath building contained a natatio or swimming pool. The natatio was roofless with bronze mirrors mounted overhead to direct sunlight into the pool area. The entire bath building was on a raised platform 6 metres (20 ft) high to allow for storage and furnaces under the building.
The libraries were located in exedrae on the east and west sides of the bath complex. The entire north wall of the complex was devoted to shops. The reservoirs on the south wall of the complex were fed with water from the Marcian Aqueduct.