Baths of Diocletian, Magic and Voodoo Dolls The Baths of Diocletian were the grandest of the public baths of Imperial Rome. Remains of the baths are open to the public and part of the Museum of Rome. This is an often overlooked museum. Considering that the entrance fee also grants access to the Palazzo Massimo National Museum of Rome, Palazzo Altemps,and Crypta Balbi it is worth a visit if the major sights of Rome have been checked off your “to do” list.
What to see:
Main Hall of the Baths of Diocletian: Well preserved, impressive hall with an exhibition of finds from excavations. Check out the stucco family tombs and the 3rd century mosaic of Hercules and Achelous.
Cloister of Michelangelo: a 16th-century garden and outdoor displays of altars and funerary sculpture and inscriptions. It’s hard to believe a place this tranquil is located so close to busy Termini train station. The price of admission is worth it just to spend some time here.
The Magical Finds of Anna Perenna – This small but fascinating exhibit was the highlight of our visit but receives little attention. The fountain to the cult of Anna Perenna, an ancient nymph, was discovered in 1999. Public sacrifices and prayers were offered to her to secure a healthy year. The discovery is undoubtedly one of the most important discoveries relating to magic ever made, due to the variety of material found in a single place. The fountain was used from the 4th century to the 5th century. Inside the cistern were religious artifacts such as 523 coins thrown into the water for good luck, pine cones and eggs as symbols of fertility and 75 lamps, some with votive offerings. But the real treat are the unusual magical artifacts: a large copper pot used for witches’ magical potions and several clay lamps. Six of the lamps have curses inscribed inside them. Rarer still are the 24 lead containers stacked one inside the other, within them seven voodoo dolls. These were used to make spells and perform magical rituals against enemies or lovers. For those willing to try a spell at home full directions are provided including a “wondrous spell to bind a lover” – that could come in handy with Valentine’s Day quickly approaching.