The Streets of Rome: Via dell'Arco della Ciambella
Doughnut Arch Street
Right. This one requires a bit of explanation. But first, I discovered yesterday the precise terminology of something that gets me rather excited: toponymy, the study of place names. My particular strain of toponymyphilia (ok, that word I completely made up) is focused on, but not limited to, street names (as you may have already noticed). But back to the subject at hand:
Very near Piazza della Pigna, where the very same pinecone we discussed a few weeks ago was discovered, we can find a few sparse ruins of the Baths of Agrippa where that ancient bronze pinecone once lived. What you see are fragments of the curving exedra that was the central section of the bath complex. With a stretch of the imagination, you could see how its shape resembles a doughnut. The buildings, as you see, have been built in and around the millenia-old walls in a mingling of ancient and modern that makes me almost as giddy as studying street names. (I am indeed a nerd.)
An archway that is sadly no longer, also part of the ancient baths, used to span this street as well. It was vital to the bath complex, as it brought water to the bathing tanks directly from the nearby Aqua Virgo aqueduct.
Agrippa's was the first great bathing complex built in Rome, dating from around 33 BC, roughly the same period during which Agrippa was overseeing the building of the Pantheon and the Aqua Virgo. His baths were open to the public free of charge, something that made him extremely popular among the plebes, as was indeed his aim in building them. Bath building was to become more popular over the course of the Roman Empire, with everyone from Nero to Titus to Trajan to Diocletian getting in on the action. The largest and most monumental baths in Rome were built by Emperor Caracalla at the beginning of the 3rd century AD.