Diving among ancient ruins where Romans used to party

Divers have the opportunity to explore the underwater remains of Baiae, an ancient Roman party city.
Fish leap across mosaic floors and into ruined villas where Roman holidaymakers once drank and plotted in Baiae.

These statues, once used to decorate luxury homes in this resort beachside resort, are now home to crabs off the coast Italy. Divers can discover the ruins of palaces or domed bathhouses that were built for emperors.

Rome's noblest were first attracted to the Baiae hot springs in the 2nd Century BC by the Campi Flegreia supervolcano, also known as the Phlegraean Fields in English.

Nero and Augustus were among the seven emperors who had villas there, along with Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony, and Julius Caesar. Sextus Propertius, a poet, described the town as "foe to virtuous beings".

According to Varro, a Roman scholar, it was where "old boys behave like young boys" and many young boys behave like young girls.

However, by the fourth century, the porticos of marble columns, shrines, and ornamental fish pools had started to sink as a result of bradyseism. This is the gradual rise-and-fall land caused by hydrothermal or seismic activity.

The entire area, which included the Pozzuoli commercial capital and Miseno military seat, was submerged. Their remains are now between four and six meters (15 to 20 feet) under water.

The park is now an underwater archaeological site near Naples. Rome's nobility was first attracted to the hot springs of Baiae in the 2nd Century BC.

"Something different"

Marcello Bertolaso is the head of Campi Flegrei, a diving centre that takes tourists around the site.

"Divers love to see special things. But what you see in Baiae park is something truly unique."

After decades of looters and fishermen stealing antiques, the 177-hectare (437-acres) underwater area has been protected since 2002.

A registered guide must accompany divers.

A close inspection of the sand near a low wall reveals a beautiful mosaic floor from a villa that belonged to Gaius Calpurnius Pisoni. He is known to have spent many days here conspiring against Emperor Nero.

The gradual rise and fall due to hydrothermal or seismic activity had caused the porticos, shrines, columns of marble, and ornamental fish pools of Baiae to sink by the fourth century.

Baiae is located on the Italian coast in the Campi Flegreia volcano, also known as the Phlegraean Fields.

Since 2002, the underwater area has been protected and divers must always be accompanied by a licensed guide.

The Baiae archaeologist said that there are "undoubtedly still ancient treasures to be found."

The ancient stones that make up the coast road lead the explorers past the ruins of shops and spas. On clear days, the sun pierces the waves to illuminate statues. These are reproductions of the originals.

Enrico Gallocchio, an archaeologist, told AFPTV that when we investigate new areas, we remove the sand gently where we think there might be a floor. We then document it and then re-cover it."

"If we don’t, the marine fauna and flora are going to attack the ruins." Gallocchio, who manages the Baiae park, said that the sand protects them.

"The large ruins can be easily found by moving a little sand. However, there are also areas where banks of sand may reach metres deep. He said that there are still many ancient relics to find."

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2021 AFP