The Original Entrance


Picture courtesy of Carole Raddato

An entrance in disguise

Occupying a space only 8 feet or 2.44 metres wide, what Paget called the Original Entrance had in Roman times been given a raised hypercaust floor which stood on the terracotta pillars which we can see. It was separated from both the Greek Temple to its left and the Sudatorium and Tholos to its right.

Originally there does not appear to have been any division between this area and the Greek Temple.

It’s all a flimsy facade

The facade shows several arched silhouettes against the cliff face, lined in diamond patterned ‘opus reticulatum’ (shaped tufa cubes, pointed at the back, were set into wet mortar).

Paget describes a small amount of decorated stucco which remains in the top left corner of a vaulted recess which is set about 3 feet back from the main facade.

On closer inspection Paget could see that metal staples or sprags had been set into the opus reticulatum to retain a false facing, in order to completely disguise the tunnel behind it. In other words this entrance was sealed off and it was not used by any part of the Roman baths.

Picture courtesy of Carole Raddato

The passage entrance

The masonry of the entrance shows evidence of at least three reconstructions at different dates.

There is a blockage 5 feet, 1.5 metres, into the hillside and at this point a minor yet significant change in direction before it meets the main tunnel which started under the Greek Temple on a bearing of 270º. At this point Paget mentions that the tunnel which is lined with blockwork changes to being carved out of solid tufa in the hillside itself. The edges where the blockwork meets the tufa are neatly rounded off, suggesting that at one time there was no masonry forward of this point.

Paget speculated that the Greek Temple once stood proud of the cliff, with perhaps an open passage behind it, later covered over. It was possibly excavated out of a landfall which had buried the buildings. The back of this passage aligns with the blockage and the change in direction of the Original Entrance. This older cliff stood in line with where we now see the back wall of the level above this terrace, some 20 feet or 6.5 metres higher up.

The red Roman tiles seen here match those found deep within the tunnels elsewhere and thus may form part of the official blocking up of the oracle.

There are some signs of ruined chambers off the Grotto, which also lie over this entrance passage.

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