The ancient Bay: a place of vices and beauties at the time of the ancient Romans

by Guido Daniele Villani

Those who live in Naples have certainly mentioned it more than once, especially in the summer: Bay is a fraction of Bacoli, a small village made up of fishermen's houses that directly overlooks two gulfs, those of Pozzuoli and Naples.

Once upon a time it was one of the most beautiful places in all of Campania Felix, chosen by emperors, nobles and notables of Ancient Rome to spend the best days. It is no coincidence, for example, if Agrippina, Nero's mother, had her villa here.

From the port it is in fact possible to observe almost the entire Flegrean coast, and what comes out of it is probably one of the most beautiful views that nature has been able to offer us: from Monte Nuovo to the port of Pozzuoli, up to the island of Nisida, that advances to the overhang of Posillipo.
Such beauties can only be guarded by ours Vesuvius which, regardless of the distance, is majestic as always.
Afterwards it is almost always possible to see also the Sorrentine Peninsula, with Monte Faito opening the dance and Punta Campanella closing the curtain opening it to the sea.

Baia Baiae ancient Romans
A drawing that represents a Roman villa at the time of Baiae

Baia, a competition with Capri and Pompeii

This view of a geographic architecture so harmonious, and at the same time so furious, being the result of countless volcanic episodes, attracted the attention of the Roman elite making Baia a place of holiday; his fame reached levels even higher than those of Capri e Pompeii.
In fact, Baia became the holiday resort of Emperors such as Claudio, and subsequently a place of leisure for Nero. The latter took charge of a project, never completed, which provided for the construction of a basin in which all the thermal waters of the area would flow. Baiae was in fact loved for its thermal baths that arose and still arise in its territory. Also it was here that Nero he planned the death of his mother Agrippina. His tomb has been identified in Bacoli, but it is certainly a fake.

Numerous other emperors enjoyed the beauties of Baiae, and with them the highest Roman hierarchies, as evidenced by the numerous buildings found in what is now the Archaeological Museum of Baia and in the fabulous Submerged Bay. Periods of splendor and austerity alternated with times of extravagance and debauchery, so much to push Seneca to talk about "Village of Vice" And Ovid to name her "appropriate place to make love".

However, with the Lombard invasions Baia became poorer and poorer, until it slowly depopulated with the phenomenon of bradyseism, which caused it collapse of most of the buildings and roads, which today can be viewed with submarine tours.

In this context, the discovery of the submerged Nymphaeum of Punta Epitaffio which allowed the identification of part of the former coast of Baia, as well as of the Nymphaeum complex.

In short, Baia that was we find today more beautiful than ever, both on land and in the depths of the sea.

Guido Daniele Villani

A beautiful BBC documentary (in English)

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1 Comment

saverio ciarcia 28 June 2021 - 12:18

Interesting quote from a little known archaeological complex. I came into possession, by chance and luck, of a publication on the "submerged imperial Nymphaeum of Punta Epitaffio", published by Banca Sannita, which I would like to suggest for reading to those who wish to deepen the theme of underwater archeology.


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