Bathing was considered a leisure activity in Roman times and was part of the daily routine for men of all classes, as well as many women. While we consider bathing to be a very private activity conducted in the home, bathing in Roman cities was a communal activity, conducted in public facilities such as this sauna (laconicum).
From the changing rooms (apodyterium), the bathers would enter the baths where oils and herbs would be used on their skin, they would partake in excercise following which the oil would be scraped off their bodies along with any dirt.
They would then usually continue to the calidarium (hot baths), followed by the tepidarium (warm baths) and finally the frigidarium (the cold baths)
After the cleansing rituals, bathers would carry out more relaxing activities such as strolling in the gardens.
Cyrene, also known as Kurana, was a Thessalian princess who was more interested in hunting than domestic chores. When Apollo witnessed her struggle and defeat over a lion which was attacking her father’s sheep, he feel head over heals in love with her and had her taken to this place by a golden chariot. Here god made her the ruler of the city and a temple was built to commemorate her heroic deed of freeing the settlers from fear of attack by lions.
Apollo and Cyrene had a son – Aristaeus – whose seduction of Eurydice went disastrously wrong when she was killed by a snake. In retribution, Aristaeus’ whole swarm of bees died in a plague. Following atonement ceremonies, the bees were born again from the sacrificed animals, and Cyrene was freed from the tragic struggles of the gods.
Cyrene also gave birth to another son, Idmon, who took after his father and excelled in healing and prophesy. He was one of the Argonauts.
In Greek mythology, the Charites were the three graces. They were the daughters of Dionysus and Aphrodite.
The Charites were the goddesses of charm, beauty, nature, human creativity and fertility. They were great lovers of beauty and gave humans talents in the arts, closely associated with the Muses. The Charites were associated with the underworld and the Eleusinian Mysteries.
Artists throughout the ages have found The Three Graces an appealing subject. In art, they are frequently represented as naked girls with their hands on each other's shoulders, the two outer figures looking one way and the middle one looking the other.
From the Hadrian period.
Apollo, the Sun god, brings life-giving heat and light to Earth. He was patron god of musicians and poets, and was associated with law, philosophy, and the arts.
He is considered the ideal of manly beauty, so that a very handsome man might be called an “Apollo”. Despite his magnificent beauty, he was not very lucky when it came to love.
He was a mortal medical healer who was so successful that he was reputed to have the ability to bring the dead back to life; which resulted in complaints by Hades. As a result, to keep peace in the godly family, Zeus killed him with a thunderbolt.
This is a Roman copy of a Hellenistic prototype.
In Greek mythology, Aphrodite was the goddess of love, beauty, fertility and sexual rapture. She was also a protectress of sailors.
She was born when Uranus (the father of the gods) was castrated by his son Cronus. Cronus threw the severed genitals into the ocean which began to foam - from this foam arose Aphrodite and the sea carried her to Cyprus.
The statue is from the Trajan period, before Hadrian's reconstruction of the theatre.
Aphrodite loved and was loved by many gods and mortals. Among her mortal lovers, the most famous was perhaps Adonis.
The Hellenistic Gymnasium was later converted to a Forum by the Romans. It was originally constructed in the 2nd century in Doric style as the major sporting arena for the Greeks. During the Roman period, major politcal meetings would be held here and the Temple to Bacchus in the centre would have served as a bar where the nobility could enjoy a drink.
The arena would have been surrounded by peristyle columns on all four sides, and access would have been through two monumental gateways.
A small thermal complex was built in the 5th century around a natural spring. There are niches built into the rock where oil lamps would have been placed.
The faithful would come here and take their ablutions in the holy water, then they would walk seven times around the temples. The number seven was symbolic as Apollo was born on the seventh day. A goat would be sacrificed and the meat given to the poor. The liver would be handed to the priest - he was said to be able to read the future in the liver.
The Roman god of wine and intoxication and was accompanied by Maenads, the wild dancing women.
Bacchanalia, orgies in honor of Dionysus, were introduced in Rome around 200 BCE. These infamous celebrations, notorious for their sexual and criminal character, got so out of hand that they were forbidden by the Roman Senate in 186 BCE.
Bacchus was also the god of the theatre, and the first plays in Greece were performed in his honour. There were mostly tragedies, but alos comedies, which poked pun at politicians and were often very disrespectful.
Bacchus was known as Dionysus in Greek mythology.
One of the earliest temples in Cyrene, it dates back to the 6th century BC. The temple was graced with 34 columns.
A statue of Aplollo was found here and is now in the British museum.
The temple has been rebuilt since its origin, first in the 4th century BC and also after the being damaged during the Jewish revolt between 115 and 117 AD. What you can see today is mostly a 2nd century AD Roman building in the Greek Doric style.
The amphitheatre would be used for what the Romans called sport.
Usually the performances would follow a set routine, starting with hunters chasing rabbits and other small rodents in the arena.
The next act would be shackled criminals being 'fed' to the lions.
The Christinas who followed, although free of shackles, would not stand much more chance against the lions.
The main event, however, was the epic contest of the Gladiators.
Unlike most contemporary amphitheatres, in Cyrene the animals would not be kept in cavities underneath the stage, the appeared from arcgways along the side as in this photo.
Hekate was the underworld goddess of witchcraft, having inherited her powers from her parents Perses and Asteria. She was the guardian against evil spirits and restless ghosts and as a guide through the difficult transitions of life - such as birth and death.
Hekate is often said to be a triple Goddess, this refers to depictions of her with three bodies, usually standing back to back.
There are cults who still worship Hekate today.
Medusa was once a beautiful maiden with glorious hair, but Athena turns her into a monster in a rage of jealousy, turning her beautiful locks into hissing serpents. She became such a cruel monster that everyone who looked at her where immideately turned to stone in sheer fear. Athena leant her shield to Perseus, who also wore Hermes' winged shoes, and he approached Medusa while she slept, making sure he did not to look directly at her, but using her image reflected in the bright shield, he cut off her head and gave it to Athena, who fixed it in the middle of her Aegis.
Although best known as a Greek goddess, Medusa was actually imported into Greece from Libya where she was worshipped by the Libyan Amazons as their Serpent-Goddess. In her images, her hair sometimes resembles dread locks, showing her origins in Africa.
Jupiter was the supreme god of the Roman pantheon, the king of the gods. Jupiter means Father Jove. He was a god of light and sky, and protector of the state and its laws. His weapon was the Thunderbolt and most of the other gods were terrified of him, although he himself was in awe of his wife Juno! He obtained his power by overthowing his father Cronus and the Titans from Olympus. He was the son of Saturn and brother of Neptune and Juno (who is also his wife).
Jupiter is completely identical with the Greek Zeus
This statue from the Roman period was found in the Capitol.
Nike was the Goddess of Victory and was usually pictured with wings. She was a very popular goddess in time of war. This did not mean that Nike's prowess were confined to military exploits, quite the opposite, she was equally famous for her vistory in many areas of ancient Greek life, including athletics and other contests. According to the poet Hesiod, she was the daughter of the Titan Pallas and the Oceanid Styx.
Nike was called Victoria in Roman mythology.
This Roman period statue was found in Beida in the sanctuary of Asklepios.
Cladius Tiberius Jason Magnus was the high priest of the Temple of Apollo in the 2nd century AD, and his imperssive private residence is really worth a visit.
The floor of the dining room is still covered with marble, and there are fine mosaics.
For more pictures of the beautiful private residence, see the Travelogue below.