Roman Bevagna Revealed
Of black and white tesserae, a delicate mosaic lobster with claws outstretched and tail swerving is one of the most intact and refined vestiges of the Roman Mevania (today, Bevagna). To the Romans stepping into the waters of Mevania’s 2nd-c. A.D. frigidarium (c0ld water baths), the lobster would have seemed to move as the waters swirled above it – the fanciful eel nearby, following:
The sea horse, trident, octopus, dolphin and fanciful sea creature motifs of the Bevagna Roman baths were mosaic motifs prevalent in thermal baths throughout the Roman empire. Note here, for example, the swirling tail of the sea horse in Bevagna…
…and note the similarity with the creature of roughly the same period depicted in a mosaic of the baths of the great Roman port city, Ostia Antica:
That same swirling tail, the same tri-lobed motif at the tip of the tail…
Stylistic analysis dates the mosaics to the reign of the Emperor Hadrian (117-38 AD).
The excavated area of Bevagna’s Roman termae has revealed remnants of four rooms sections of a vast public thermal complex, cited by the Greek geographer Strabone – who also cited Mevania‘s importance due to its position along the western branch of the important Roman consular road, the Via Flaminia (22- B.C.).
The Roman Mevania thermal bath mosaics were first documented in an early 17th-century drawing by Bevagna painter, Andrea Camassei…
…his work very appreciated by the British royalty; in fact, the Camassei drawing is now in the Royal Collection, Windsor Castle.
The Bevagna frigidarium mosaics were revealed to the local bevanati in 1891 – and they were on the floor of a stall, the farmer-owner covering the mosaic floor with hay, animals feeding on top of it. Finalmente, in the early 20th-century, the Italian government purchased the buildings built over the complex. Basic work of solidarity on the building was not completed, however, until 1940.
In later restoration, experts discovered that the walls of the frigidarium were originally covered in marble with two niches along one side most likely housing statues of deities or important personages.
While further excavations in 1982 revealed four ambiences in the original structure, only three survive: the frigidarium described above with the caldarium (hot baths) and the tepidarium (tepid baths) foundations as well. Air heated in underground furnaces and piped to heat the water and the floor served to warm both ambiences. Under the pavement, a sophisticated drainage system allowed water to escape from a center-floor plug.
Mosaics of the caldarium and tepidarium were destroyed with construction of buildings above them over the centuries. Per fortuna, the splendor of the frigidarium mosaics remains as testament to the prosperity and importance of Mevania during that period.
Another testament to the city’s importance in the Roman period are the remnants of imposing Roman temples throughout the town.
Not far from the entrance to Bevagna’s terme romane, you’ll see robust brick columns (possibly once covered in plaster of pastel colors) on travertine bases which had supported a 2nd-century A.D. temple – and were later incorporated into a church:
Both the medieval churches on Bevagna’s main square incorporate “recycled” Roman columns from temples once rising on the site of the churches:
You’ll want to head into the curving medieval alleyway of Bevagna leading to the ruins of the 1st-c. A.D. Roman theater – though the winding narrow street is erroneously named “Via Anfiteatro.”
Head for this sign – for you’ll want to see the medieval house – as well as the Roman theater:
Read about Bevagna’s medieval house – a must-see Bevagna attraction
Click here to read about – and see! – Bevagna’s medieval festival the Mercato delle Gaite
Read about the joys of living the Gaite for visitors
Read more about the Gaite
Read about the splendor of Bevagna’s frescoed theater
Click here to read about the medieval house and other Bevagna treasures
Read about a Bevagna visit with guests in our Assisi apartments
Click here to read about – and see – Bevagna’s esteemed tailor – and other gems