Patara - Harbor Bath

The Harbor Bath is one of the four baths of Patara, located in front of the date palms near the Arch of Modestus.  Because its rectangular sections are constructed parallel to one another, this puts it in the Lycian baths category (similar earlier examples are found at Pompei).  Finds date the bath back at least to 140 AD, but if other evidence is true, then it may have been built between 50 and 75 AD making this bath among the earliest examples in Lycia.  Pieces of pottery and oil lamps found here, as well as mosaics and the road pavement date to the 6th century AD and the bath was probably in use during the time of Justinian (527-565 AD). 

The eastern section that is completely collapsed is the palaestra, a place used for sports such as boxing and wrestling that didn't need much space.  The end of the palaestra and the nearby street pavement were decorated with mosaics.  The palaestra room joins the next section, a frigidarium, through two doors with huge vaults. This room has an abscissa with windows to the south.  The next section is the tepidarium.  Next is the hot section, the caldarium, the most western room, facing the date palms with a giant arch (8.3 metres).  All four rooms were covered with a barrel vaulted ceiling.  The interior was once covered with marble tiles and probably the floor too (some are still found here).  The heating system was the usual under-floor hypokaust system and the walls were built in such a way that the hot air would circulate throughout them around the chambers.  Vault blocks have been found to the east; the bath may have had a rich portico.

Some elements of the Byzantine era have been found here that feature into the unfurtunate destruction of the bath.  Along the street running along the bath's southern side some pavement stones have been removed and a pit dug as a limekiln, it was used to turn the bath's marble tiles into lime.  At the caldarium end an iron workshop was found with a round furnace along with waste metal.  It is a unique structure with two channels used for the discharge of molten iron and it was used to melt down the braces that kept the marble tiles affixed to the walls of the bath.

Click to see this structure's location

Northern side of the bath, looking into the caldarium

View of the bath from the south


The frigidarium

Street on the south side, notice the relief carvings of wreathes on the abscissa.  The remains of stone walls of shops can be seen alongside the bath and along the southern side of the street one can see holes that were used to hold the shade supports of street stands.  It seems the shops were built at a later time.

Intersection of the streets


The abscissa of the frigidarium

The underfloor heating system (hypocaust)

Water pipe to the bath


The trees that grow next to the bath are historical date palms, called phoenix theophrasti (also known as the Cretan Date Palm, found only in a few spots on Crete and southern Turkey).  Fossils show that this type of tree existed 60,000 years ago, now they are one of the world's rarest trees and under the protection of the Turkish government.

These palms are a wonder of nature in the sense that they are eternal; they reproduce in clumps by suckering (sending out new shoots).  No one knows how long this group of palms have been growing in the area.  The link between the bath and the palms is easy with the western street built between them, but hard to understand with the walls of dwellings that were built in a later time.  The oldest present tree is said to be about 300 years old.

Trunk of a palm with suckers


Note: much of the information on this page is from the book Patara: The History and Ruins of The Capital City of Lycian League by Dr. Fahri Işıki (head excavator of Patara), Orkun and Ozan Medya Hizmetleri A.Ş. 2000.  I believe this is a limited edition book and unfortunately I don't know where it can be purchased.