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Only 4 km far from the crossroad of two major transeuropean trade routes
– the Amber Route and the Danubian Route, at the confluence of the rivers Danube
and Morava, there is a site at Bratislava-Dúbravka (200 m a.s.l.). It is situated
in the basin between forested slopes of promontories of the Little Carpathian
Mountains. This basin is opened only to the north and north-west, and so it
provides the protection against the winds blowing from the west along the Danube.
It is flowed off by a stream from its southern and eastern edge. Approximately
in the centre of the basin there is a reed-grown depression that could have
been a lake in the past. In the southern part of the basin there is a strong
spring – abundant source of fresh water. Sufficiency of water, arable land,
proximity of forest – source of wood – and pastures always provided exceptionally
suitable conditions for the life. The occupancy of the site is evidenced from
the Late Palaeolithic until the Middle Ages (ca. from 10 000 – 8 000 BC to
AD 13th century).
Shortly after the turn of era the Germanic tribes arrived to this territory
and assimilated remains of the Celtic population. Occupancy of Bratislava-Dúbravka
during the Roman Period can be divided into three main phases.
During the first phase of the settlement dated back to the Early Roman Period
(second half of the first century AD) houses with semi-sunken floors with 2
or 6 supporting posts were built. Their walls were made of thinner branches
and plastered by clay, the roofs were made of the bound wisps of reed or straw.
Iron-melting workshop also belonged to the settlement from the AD 1st century
(fig. 1, 2).
The most significant discovery at the settlement is the remains of the
Roman architecture. The foundations of the stone building together with segments
of its aboveground masonry were preserved up to the height of 150 cm and formed
rectangular ground plan with the measurements 13 x 11 m. From three sides it
had adjacent semicircular apses of different size. Foundation masonry with
the thickness from 56 to 62 cm was built in the Roman style from three layers
of quarry stones laid in a fishbone pattern (opus spicatum); each layer was
one Roman foot thick. Regarding the analogies known from the territories of
the Roman provinces this structure can be interpreted as the project and commenced
construction of the Roman bath of circular type common during the Late Roman
Period. Apses were supposed to be the pools for cold (frigidarium), warm (tepidarium)
and hot (caldarium) water; 2 adjacent rectangular spaces were intended for
warm and hot air; space with the ground plan of L-shape was probably supposed
to serve as cloakroom
or dressing room (fig. 3, 4).
Along with the building stone from collapsed walls and fragments of the
polychrome wall plaster, thousands of fragments of the Roman roofings (tegulae
roofing tiles and imbrices – semi-cylindrical roofing tile) were found in the
bath filling. Roofing material was imported from the private workshop in Pannonia,
most probably from Carnuntum or Vindobona (Vienna). Analogies to two up to
now known stamped bricks from the ground of our building that bear the names
of their producers – SEP(timii) VIT(alis) and CENT KARVS – come from the above
mentioned sites, too. Worth mentioning is notable construction detail of the
building at Dúbravka, specifically absent underfloor heating system of tepidarium
and caldarium that is common in the baths in the Roman provinces. Thus, assumingly,
the original project was changed and unique building could have become common
house with only a cold bath. Interior of the building yielded only few finds:
Roman pottery, polychrome mosaic glass, bronze fibulae, fragments of the wine
glass from Trier (Augusta Treverorum), coins of Emperors Alexander Severus
(222-235), Gallienus (253-268) and others (fig. 5, 6).
Similar structures that served as baths in the provinces became parts of the
civil residences of villa rustica type in the Roman countryside. Such Roman
country residences were independent agricultural productive units. Apart from
the bath they consisted of owner residence, shrine, outhouses etc.
The architecture – bath – is of exceptional importance not only for being remarkably
well-preserved but above all for its cultural-historical background. Almost
whole territory of contemporary Slovakia except for the small area of transdanubian
part of Bratislava (Gerulata-Rusovce) lay beyond the frontier of the Empire
(limes romanus). Countryside residence at Bratislava-Dúbravka (only 5 km far
from Carnuntum) similar to villa rustica type originated probably in the first
third of the third century AD during the unprecedented economic prosperity
of Pannonia under the Severans. This fact is evidenced not only by existence
of the bath in this region but also by the remains of the hall building with
ground plan measurements 14 x 12 m that was found 80 m east of the bath.
Fragments of the Roman roofing material in filling of its large post holes with the diameter ca. 1 m evidence that even its roof was covered in the Roman style. Dating of this hall building within the AD 3rd century is implied by the find of the coin of Alexander Severus (AD 222-235) as well as by terra sigillata fragments (samian ware). The building probably served as an outhouse, perhaps as a granary. In the second third of the third century AD, when the relationships between the Romans and the Germans got worse, the residence at Dúbravka probably ceased to exist. It is still not possible to say who the constructor of these buildings was. It could have been the Roman veteran of the Germanic origin who returned to his fatherland after finishing his military service and let build the country residence in the Roman style.
Elschek, K.: Die germanische Besiedlung von Bratislava-Dúbravka während
der älteren römischen Kaiserzeit. In: Kelten-Germanen und Römer im Mitteldonaugebiet.
Brno-Nitra 1995, 39-52
Elschek, K.: Römisch-germanische villae rusticae im Limesvorfeld von Carnuntum? Ergebnisse systematischer Grabung und Prospektion. In: Roman Frontier Studies 1995. Oxbow Monograph 91. Oxford 1997, 225-232
Elschek, K.: Eine Eisenverhüttungswerkstatt der älteren römischen Kaiserzeit aus Bratislava-Dúbravka. In: Metallgewinnung und -Verarbeitung in der Antike (Schwerpunkt Eisen). Nitra 2000, 33-46
Elschek, K.: Rímsko-germánska vidiecka usadlosť s kúpeľom v Bratislave-Dúbravke (Resume: Das römisch-germanische ländliche Anwesen mit Bad in Bratislava-Dúbravka. In: Pamiatky a múzeá 3/2000. Bratislava 2000, 27-29
Elschek,K/Kolník,T.: Praveké osídlenie a rímsko-germánska usadlosť v Dúbravke. Pamiatky-súčasnosť, 22, 1991, č.1, 10-12
Kolník,T.: Römische Stationen im slowakischen Abschnitt des nordpannonischen Limesvorlandes. Archeologické rozhledy 38, 1986, 411-434, 467-472