Slavica Taseva, Vane P. Sekulov

Late roman thermal spa, Vill. Bansko, Strumica


The village Bansko is located 12 km. South-east from Strumica, south-east Macedonia (fig. 1). The east end of the village, the place where the spring of thermo-mineral water is, is know by the name ,,Bath" among the population.

Orrographically it belongs to the north slope of mountain Belasica which has general east-west spreading. There are layers from the time of the old Paleozoic, neogen and qarter in the geological construction of the field. The place tectonically belongs to Macedonian- Serbian tectonic massif, i.e. to Belasica’s fissure 45 km. long in east-west direction with a discent towards north under angle of 65º, and along its length there are parceled zones and millionits. All this influenced the springs of thermal water.¹

 The archeological digging on the Late-Roman thermal spa has begun in 1978² and continues, with short interruptions, till today. Till the year 2002 it was managed by Jovan Ananiev, a counselor archeologist from the Institute and Museum – Strumica. Unfortunately, his early death stopped him finishing his researches. With the last campaign we’ve covered about 1500 sq.  km. where a well-preserved Late – Roman thermal spa was discovered (fig.  2).

The object used to use the thermal – mineral water of the spring ,,Parilo’’ which is located about fifty meters south-west of the bath. The capacity of the spring is 42 l/s with water-temperature of 72º C, which is enough for good supply of the bath.³.

The water contains hard minerals which during its sedimentation make thick layer of tufa. The whole space between the spring and the bath is also covered with thich  tufa layers.

So far 11 premises have been found – all with different assignment, but all function of the ritual bathing ,curing and enjoying the thermal water. The whole surface of the discovered architecture is 623 sq.  m (fig. 3). Nine of them are extraordinarily preserved which  can be best seen in the premise num.  1, where a cross and a semi-circular vault are, and in premise num .5 – a semi-dome above the bathing tub. In the other premises there are the initial parts of the vault constructions.


Premise num.  1

This premise is between premise num. 4 and 10  on south-east and the premise num.  3 on north-west which makes a functional content.

Its length in direction northeast-southwest is 7 m. and is devided on 2 parts (fig. 4). The north-east half , with dimensions 3,90 x 3,10 , where the floor and wall-heating is – it’s hypocaust.

In the central part, direction northwest-southeast, there is the main channel through which the heating system was supplied hot steam. The channel length is 3,10 m, depth 0,60 and width 0,40 m.

The floor-heating system is spread on the whole surface in the north-east half of the premise and it is a system of 5 rows with 3 arches which are drown by built columns and form channels for hot air circulation (fig.  5). The last row of arches make rectangular tubes (tubules), which completely cover the north-east and north-west wall to 2.00 m. height. There is an input and an outlet of hot water and air in the floor heating system.

The south-west half of the premise is a bathing-tube with dimensions 2,60 x 2,30 and depth 1,00 m. The floor, as well as the walls of the tub  are rough-casted with water-proof mortar. In the north half of the north-east wall there is a door for entering the premise, but in the phase of widening the bath this door was closed. The premise num.  3 could be entered through the door which  is in the north half of the north-west wall.

The communication with premise num.  4 is trough a bow-door 2,35 wide, 3,00 high and deep in te north half of south-east wall.

This premise has some preserved vaults. The north-east half has a cross-vault, and the vault above the tub is semi-circular. The covering construction is of two types of tegullae: bow on the vault surface and flat at the end of the vault which was used as gutter. The room has two bow windows: one on the south-west wall and one on the central part of the sout-east wall which is fronted to premise num.  10.

Premise num. 4

This premise is between premise num.  1 on north-west and num.  10 on south-west (fig. 6).

It is 6,40 long, 3,15 m wide in northwest-southeast direction and functionally they make a whole with premise num. 1 where the steam channel continues along the whole leght of the premise and goes out through the south-east wall. The system for floor and wall heating continues to the both sides of the channel the same way as in premise num. 1. Close to the north-east wall there is a bench which is 3,35 m long, 0,35 m wide and 0,50 m high (fig.  7). There are 13 rectangular ceramic tubes (tubulae) between the bench and the wall with which this wall heated. According to the last mortar print with which the tubes were built, they were in night of 1,30 m. above the bench.

Such a bench is also found besides the south west wall, but there the tubes are closed inside the bench and not go out above it.

The east corner of the premise is 0,23 m higher than the rest and this premise has dimensions 2,30 x 1,82 m. which is laid with marble tiles. Next to this part, in the south corner of the premise, a tube is built with outer dimensions 1,96 x 0,92 m. and 0,50 m. depth. In the middle of the south-east wall there is a built niche whose ossignation is unknown. Premise num. 4 could be entered from the premise num. 1 trough the door which has been described before. The communication with premise num. 10 is in the west half of the south-west wall. That is a big bow window with 2,35 width, 3,00 height and 0,70 m depth.

The roof construction of this premise was a brick-vault. It was on the north-east and south-west wall. There are remains of vaulting on the whole length of the south-west wall according to which the height of the vault construction can be defined.

Premise num. 10

This premise was additionally built next to premise num. 4, between premise num. 1 on north-west and premise num. 4 on north-east (fig. 8). Its dimensions are 3,20x3,05 m. The floor is of mortar of tiny stones. The edges between the walls and the floor are mortar edged, the same way as in the other premises. The floor has discent from south-west towards north-east, with the lowest point in the east corner of the premise where two openings (holes) for premise draining can be found.

Water input in this premise can not be defined yet.

The mortar is preserved on all of the walls on different height. It is highest in the south corner – to 1,80 m. It is water-proof, double-layered with intensive red color and very smooth. There are holes for the windows in a shape of bow on all of the four walls. The biggest is the niche on the north-east wall, towards premise num. 4 and entering the premise num. 10. It could be got down by two stairs, where the top one is in the wall and the low one is casted out like a bench. Two such benches are found under the niche with a window on the north-west wall to the pool of premise num. 1 and they used to serve for sitting of the swimmers. The bow hole on the south-west wall is built and is in function of a niche.

Premise num. 3

Premise num. 3 is a central premise round which the whole complex of the bath was formed. Premises num. 1, 4 and 10 are south-east of it. Later premises num. 2 and.5 had been attached to its north-east side. The dimensions of the premise are 12,80x10,70 in direction northeast-southwest (fig. 9). On the central place of the premise there is a pool with dimensions 10,70 x 8,50 m. or with area of  92,88 sq. m. The depth is 1,30 to 1,50 m. The pool could be entered by two semi-circular stairs each with three steps which are in the south and west corner of it. The whole north-east side has stairs with 3 steps, where the south-east and north-west side are two benches for the swimmers. The floor is tiled with bricks. The draing is in east corner. A walking-path 1,05 m wide goes round the pool.

The walls in this premise are preserved in high of about 7 m. On the north-west  wall there are 3 niches, with one window hole where the middle one is open in the low part in the two niches are built benches. The south-east wall is the same, with that in the first niches there is a door to premise num. 1 on the north-east wall. There also three niches on the north-east wall, the two of them have benches, and in the north there is a door for communication with premise num. 5.

Left and right the south-west wall there are semi-circular tubs one of which is built (fig. 10).

The tub could be entered through a wall-stair from the both sides. The input and the drain in the this tub are defined. The tub floor are bricks. There is a built postament between the two tubs which has a thick tufa layer. There once was a fountain from which the water used to reach the pool. It was supplied with not water through tub channels and trough the one that comes from the south corner of the premise.

In the upper zone of the south-west wall there are two niches above the tubs which are built, and behind the postament there is a central niche which ends with a built window. There are also three pilasters for wall invigoration on the outer side of the north-west wall. The roof construction of this premise has not been defined yet.

The walls of the inside of the premise are double done with mortar and there are mortar fragments on all of the walls. Yet, the outer side is done with one-layer waterproof mortar and mortar decoration circuling the rocks.

Premise num. 2

Premise num. 2 is detached to the north-east side of premises num. 1 and num. 3. The dimensions are 10,35x6,90 m. in direction northeast-southwest (fig. 11). The floor is tiled with bricks with dimensions 54x34 cm. which is, in the north-east half ruined for 0,16 m under the pressure of the big load of fat detritus of sand and rocks. There are big floor damages in the central part of the premise and along the south half of the south-east wall where are no bricks at all. There is a big floor destruction near the  north half of the same wall with a decline of 0,55 m. under the level.

The south-west half also has damages, but here the floor had been restored with fragments of bricks while the bath was still active.

During the building of premise num. 2 there had been a ruined premise with belonged to the first phase of the bath and through which premises num. 1 and num. 3 were entered. There are 3 deep niches on the south-east wall where the windows are and there are sitting-benches next to the north-east and north-west wall. The communication with the other premises were through the two big arches in the north-west wall where one could enter premise num. 5 (fig. 12). The third arch, which is in the north half, represents a niche. There is one sitting bench.

This premise had been with vault roof construction. The vault had extended to the north-west and south-east wall. There are remains of the vaulting of the north-west wall which is with normal-laid bricks on the wall, from which the vault construction can be seen and its hight defined.

Premise num. 5

This premise is north-west from premise num. 2 and north-east from premise num. 3. It’s dimensions are 9,95x7,10 m. in direction northeast-southwest (fig. 13). The floor is brick too, but here they are with smaller dimensions: 34x22,5 cm. which are even tilen in a shape of bow. The floor is very uneven and with big inclination to 0,24 m. In the floor damages, which are in the central part of the premise, as well as in the north and east corner, another floor can be seen under this level and it’s with bricks identical dimensions as those in premise num. 12. This means that the original floor had later been tiled again.

There is a semi-circular tub with a semi-dome and a totaly preserved construction in the west half of the north-west wall. Its length is 5,30, radius 3,40 and depth 1,15 m (fig. 14). Its entrance is trough a little wall  with a bench along the whole length of the tub. The floor is entirely preserved with properly tiled bricks. The tub has an input and a drain. Its walls are mortared with triple-layer water-proof mortar, very smooth with remains of white paint on it. The roof cover above the semi-dome is with bow tegulars and it has preserved elements.

The entrance of premise num. 3 is in the west corner of the premise, while the entrance of premise num. 7 is in the north half of the north –east wall.

In the upper zone of the wall, between premise num. 2 and num. 5, one can see the beginning of the vault construction of premise num. 2, a drain channel made of flat tegulae on the whole length of the wall with north-east inclination and 3 windows-holes which show eastern premise-illumination. The roof construction has not been defined because there are no such elements.

Premise num. 7

This premise has dimensions 4,97x3,50 m. in direction southeast-northwest and it is built next to premise num. 5 (fig. 15). Two phases are defined in it. The one was with water-proof mortar floor, quite damaged, with edges built of rocks and soil beside the south-east and north-east wall. With removing the top-floor and rock-edges it was revealed that this premise was in a function of a shallow tub. Its floor is a fine, smooth, double layer mortar with intensive red color  which continues in a shape of a bow along the tub walls. On the south-west wall there is a fine mortar stair. There is a door on the north-west wall which was latter built close.

The south-east wall has a bow window opening, and on the north-east has a part of bow window opening which is closed. The entrance to premise num. 7  from premise num. 5 is through the door which was formed with closing of the big bow opening.

According to the remains of vaulting on the south-east and north-west the roof construction of this premise was a vault.


Premises num. 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 and 10 are in a functional integrity with premise num. 3. Premises num. 1 and num. 4 are built together with premise num. 3. Those are so-called hot-premises or sweating-premises. According to the heating-system these 2 premises are defined as sudatorium, which is a place where bathers used to sweat themselves with wet steam.

Premises n.2, 5, 7 and 10 are built in the second phase of the bath-spreading. To build premises num. 2 and num. 5 the previous entrance premise infort of premise num. 1 was demolished.

Then  the two doors which are on the south-west wall of premise num. 2 were closed. Premises num. 2 and 5 are in function of apoditorium with that premise num. 5 was also frigidarium because of the semi-circular tub with cold water. Premise num. 7 had also had a role of frigidarium with the shallow pool of cold water in its first phase. However it was later files with mortar and building waste and leveled with the floor level of premise num. 5. Then was probably a door opened on the north-west wall. Premise num. 5 is a central premise round which the  whole system of the bath was developed.

The pool, natatio, dominates and there the bathing used to be with cold water.

Premise num. 6

The premise is north-west of premise num. 8 and num. 5 with dimensions 9,5 x 8,8 m. in southeast-northwest direction (fig. 16). The pool takes the central place of the premise and its dimensions are 7,9 x 7,2 m. Its depth is various: it is the shallowest in the south corner where the depth is 1,21 m. and it is the deepest in the north corner with depth of 1,38 m. The pool-bottom is tiled with bricks, while the side-walls of the pool are mortared with water-proof mortar. The pool has two types of stairs which lead to its bottom: in the south and west corner there is one semi-circular stair, each of 3 steps, while the north-east of the pool has four-steps stair.

The both types of stair are brick built with water-proof mortar. There is a path 0,60 to 1 meter wide round the pool. The water in the pool is brought through a channel set on a wall 1 m. long, 1 m. high and 0,50 wide. It comes to the edge of the pool through the window of the central niche on the south-west wall. The water-drain is in the north corner of the pool where it’s the deepest.

The three tubs in the niches on the north-east wall of premise num. 6 are also in a function of the pool.(fig. 17). Their dimensions are 1,35 x 1,40 x 1,63-1,67 m. and are brick-tiled with estimated fall towards the north corner where the water-drains are. The south niche in the south-west corner has a built pillar of 8 bricks with dimensions 0,38 x 0,38m. and height of 0,43m. coated with mortar and whose function was easier entrance in the tub, as well as for bathers’ sitting. The depth of the three tubs is with small differences. For example , the south one is from 0,90 m. to 0.98m. beside the west wall in the north-east corner where the water-drain is. The tub-walls were of mortar but it is preserved only in the tub in the south niche. In some later phase the tubs were not used, probably of the drain-stuck and were filled up with mortar to the level of the pool-paths as in the tub in the east niche, or there were little pillars of irregular brick- fragments in their bottom. On it a floor was made, again of bricks which was also inclined to the height of the pool pats. Such is the case with the tubs in the central and north niche. Then the windows  which are above the tubs were probably built. Above the niches there is a bow window  which is half-built with a partition wall. Above it there are three more windows which were rectangular and they are characteristic by their different angle for the sunrays during the whole day.

The opposite wall contains 2 windows  which were also set under different angles. The roof construction was brick vault with a span from the northeast to southwest wall. The outside appearance  of the north-east and  south-west wall was architectonically-esthetically made with forming blind niches, probably for sculptures and with double-vaulted bow niched and resting-benches. There are also fragments of mortar facade on the walls. The rest three walls also contain three niches each. The south-east preserves only the south niche, while the rest are damaged. The east niche has a door which used to communicate with premise num. 8. the other two have sitting-benches. On the south-west wall there are windows in the niches . In the central one there is a water-input under the window and the other two have benches. The niches are not preserved in the north-west wall, but it is analogous with the south-east wall, so they are repeated. Also, there is a door for communication with premise num. 9 in the north niche.

Premise num. 8

 This premise is detached to the east side of premise num. 6 . It is with direction southeast-northwest in a shape of the letter “G“. Its length is 6,60 m. the width to south-east is 4,60 and on north-west 7,05m. (fig. 18). This premise actually consists of 3 smaller premises which are in functional connection. The south-east premise is a tub with brick-floor with mortar edges. The north-west premise is tiled with bricks, with a small shaft in the west corner.  Here is also the entrance to premise num. 6 . The north premise is the smallest, with mortar floor where the waste-water used to escape and , through a channel through the sought-west wall came from the premise /tub. The north corner of the premise has a opening on the floor-level where the water drained from.

Premise num. 8 had semi-circular vault and remains of vaulting on the south-west wall . Under this vault there were another vault above this premise/tub.

According to the remaining of the vaulting on its north-west wall, the north and the smallest premise was vaulted with a semi- circular vault.


These premises are in a functional unity. They are part of the third building phase of the bath. Premise num. 9, which is detached to the north-west  side of premise num. 6 belongs to them. It is not fully investigated yet and is under a thick layer of detritus. However, according to that small part which has been investigated, it has the function of apoditorium of this part of the bath. The great preservation of the wall clothes of the whole object gives opportunity of considering the building type. The building technique is expressed by a careful choice of building material: parceled stones and brick.


The walls-stoutness, which is 1 to 1,60 m. conditions their shape with half-processed stone with medium size and brick, forming the wall-face, and the wall interior is filled with parceled stones. Brick-dimensions are usually 52x35x4-5 cm. They are well-baked  with normal edges. The massif wall construction is emphasized by the equal usage of brick and stones.

The way of the arranging the building material is in accordance with the constructive and technical needs of the object, taking care of the frames of the typical Roman rationality.

The usage of the building technics opus mixtum-massif building on rock with three row bricks with white-lime mortar, is regular at all walls in the excavated premises (fig. 19). The brick is used in forming the wall corners, side-ends of the wall-opening, as well as the built  pilasters and brick-vaults ,while the geometric form on the wall-face are formed with stone which is a characteristic building technique  for this period objects.

The technics opus mixtum had been widely spread on the whole teritory of the Balkan  peninsula from the 3rd till 7th century, and the construction of three brick-rows  was characteristic for the 3rd and 4th century, as well as the usage of the white lime mortar which was used as a binding-stuff till the medium of the third century⁴.

This way of building was widely used in building defending objects and it was mostly used in building public objects.


The moving archaeological material is not proportional with the monumentality of the object.  Even the bath was filled with thick layer, there were found relatively little findings.

The top layers are especially poor where except for the rare fragments of ceramic with modern provenience, and Turk green enameled ceramic , other material in this layers was not found. The condition, even not drastically, was changing towards the premise floors where the ceramic from the Roman period is frequently used, but not equally  in every premise. The premise num. 6 had plenty of ceramics, while the rest of them it was very rare. It is typically  Roman ceramics, mostly with grey and less with red color. The dishes are usually fragmented with various and shape and the commonest are little cups and drinking dishes. The most frequent are those with tordired handle through the recipient which imitate the bronze kettles. The most common decorations are the dishes with printed ornaments, all this gives an impression that the most of them were used for ladling water and consuming it. There is a painting on one of the fragments on a ceramic dish where the look of the stylized bath is shown. The rest of the material is rare: a marble hand as a part of a marble statue found in premise num. 6. A damaged marble capitel was found in premise num 3, there were also small bronze statues of Mercury, bone-needles, lots of fragments of bracelets of glass paste and two fibulae were found (fig. 20).

 A small fragment of a golden neckless was found on the floor in premise num. 2. After ceramics, the coins are most common which unfortunately are very rusted by the influence of the aggressive thermal water. They are mostly found “trapped“ in tufa-layers even to 30 pieces together.


According to the last degree of bath-excavation and in a situation when the moving archeological material has not been processed yet, we are not in a condition to determine the correct period of building the object, nor when had it begun to fade when there came the period of layering the tufa. Still, by more comparative methods we can place the bath in a relative time frame which doesn’t mean that it can not be later changed.

A big number of coins dating from the IV to III century a.c. were found in the spring. After this  date, other coins, and other late material has not been found. We can place this whole archeological moving material in a time –frame of II to IV century a.c. Also, the second building phase can help with the dating of the whole object. Namely, the small apoditorium was demolished then. It was from the first phase and a new, bigger one was made instead. This one was connected with the frigidarium through a gate opening in a mutual premise. Such a change, when the apoditorium gets bigger dimensions and an important place in the whole composition scheme of the baths and the frigidarium is more and more merged with it, is characteristic for the end of the III and the here beginning of the IV century a.c. and that in all of the Roman provinces on the Balkan and north Africa⁵. However, the building technics  itself in all  of the three phases proves that the first phase is not so earlier than the second half of the III cent., or the third building phase is not later than the first half of the IV century. The technics of building the corners, edges, windows, doors and all other problematic places without stone and with massif brick usage instead, is characteristical for this late Roman period⁶. We would also place the bath in this time interval.


Even the territory of the R. of Macedonia is known for its big number of antique baths and objects with floor and wall heating⁷, we must still emphasize that the late antique thermal spa in vill. Bansko is in many ways different from the other thermal objects. First is to say that its preservation is high, then it is an object which still functions; in the summer period when the thermal water is not used for heating the local green-houses, the pool and the tub in premise num. 3 are filled with water. The heating system is also in function-the steam circulates through it. Finally, the main difference is the way of heating the premises. While the other classical baths use furniums for water-heating and steam, our bath , because of the high-water temperature of the spring of 72 ºC , doesn’t need such elements. So far, we recognize only two more baths on the Balkan Peninsula which are similar to the bath in Bansko. They are in Varaždinske Toplice in Republic of Croatia⁸, and the bath in Hissar in Bulgaria . They also use thermal waters for supply, but because of their low temperatures of 58 or 48 ºC they used to additionally heat the water. We know another bath in Caričin Grad, Serbia, which also uses thermal water with temperature of 40ºC and is a part of a Late antique palace.

1. Дефинирање на стабилноста на тлото на југозападната страна од Доцноантичкото термално лечилиште с. Банско, Струмица – Универзитет „Св.Кирил и Методиј“- Скопје, Рударско-геолошки факултет Штип, Катедра за геологија и геофизика Штип 2003

2. Јован Ананиев, Археолошко ископување на локлитетот “Турска бања - Панаѓур“ село Банско кај Струмица 1978-1981 г.  Зборник на трудови на Завод за заштита на спомениците на културата, природни реткости и Музеј Струмица 1989 стр. 333

3 Јован Ананиев, Струмица 1989, стр. 337

4. С. Н. Бобчев, Смесената зидария в римските и ранновизантискийските строежи, Известия на археологическия институт ХХIV (1961)

5. Красимира Вачева, Архитектурен анализ и реконструкция на късноантичната баня в Никополис ад Нестум, Годишник на Департамент Археология - НБУ, т. I, 1994, София, стр. 156

6. Красимира Вачева, София 1994, стр. 155

7. Звонко Белдедовски, Баргала-Новооткриена архитектура во епископиумот,  Зборник IX-X,  Завод за заштита на спомениците на културата и народен музеј Штип 2003 стр. 65

8. Branka Vikić-Belančić—Marcel Gorenc, Istraživanja antiknog kupališta u Varaždinskim Toplicama od 1956 do 1959 godine, Vjesnik arheološkog muzeja u Zagrebu Serija III Svezak II Zagreb 1961, str. 181-242


The archaeological excavations at the site Late Roman thermal spa in the village of Bansko, Strumica, were begun in 1978 and with short interruptions have continued until today. The existing campaigns include a spase of about 1500 m² upon  which a monumental and well-preserved Late Roman thermal spa has been found. The building was using the thermal – mineral water of the “Parilo“ spring , situated at about fifty meters southwest from the bath, with capacity of 42 l/sec and water contains heavy minerals which form a thick tufa-layer due to sedimentation. There are also thick tufa – layers covering the whole space between the spring and the bath.

With the excavations done so far there have been discovered 11 rooms of the bath, 9 of which have been excellently preserved. Chamber no.1 is especially well-preserved, with one cross and one semi-circular vault; Chamber no.5 is also very well-preserved, with a semi-dome above the bathtub. The floor and wall heating system, i.e the hypocaust, is extraordinarily preserved in Chambers no. 1 and no.4 . In the rest of the chambers original portions of semi – circular and cross vaults have been preserved. According to results of the research done so far, three phases of horizontal expansion of the bath can be distinguished.

Chamber no.1 , 4 and 10 are a functional entity to serve Chamber no.3. These are so-called warm chambers or chambers where the bath-goers could perspire. If we use the already accepted terminology, they are know as sudatorium. These three chambers together with Chamber no.3 are part of the first and oldest phase of the bath or spa.

Chambers no.2,5 and 7 were built in the second phase of the bath expansion. In order to build them, i.e to build Chamber no.2, it was necessary to ruin the entrance chamber in front of Chamber no.1. The doors which can be seen on the present southwest wall of Chamber no.2 , were walled up in that period. Several intervening phases can be noticed in the chambers themselves, especially in Chambers no.5 and 7.

The last phase of the spa expansion includes Chamber no.6 , where the pool with the three bathtubs is situated, as well as Chambers with no.8 where is one more bathtub and space for preparation of bath-goers.

 According to the few archaeological objects found in the bath, and more according to the building techniques and the characteristic rebuilding, the bath belongs to a time frame from middle III century to the first half of the IV century A.C.

The bath is excellently preserved with all elements necessary for reconstruction or eventual revitalization.

На Растку објављено: 2007-12-16
Датум последње измене: 2007-12-16 00:45:04

Пројекат Растко / Проект Растко Македонија