Roman remains around the island
Roman remains are not something many visitors associate with Corfu, but travelling around you can get glimpses which show you that their occupation was definitely not a quick holiday stop!
Many conquerors have left their marks on the island, the history of Corfu is a fascinating glimpse into power struggles, and the rise and fall of dynasties.
The Roman period is less well known than later times, but was an extremely important time for the island. Legend says that Nero watched a play in the theatre at Cassiopi- now disappeared sadly.
There are however Roman remains to be found in many villages around the island, Acharavi, Moraitika and Benitses to name but a few. Indeed in Benitses the remains of a splendid Roman bath with mosaics can be seen.
One of the most famous naval battles in history, Actium, where Augustus Caesar (then Octavius) destroyed the fleet of Antony and Cleopatra, was fought in the seas just south of Corfu. And Caesar’s victory was celebrated by building a large city near the modern town of Prevesa, called unsurprisingly Nicopolis, or Victory City.
At the northern end of the Corfu channel, on the Albanian coast, lies the remains of Butrint, an important archaeological site containing Roman remains, as well as relics of the other civilisations which have colonised this coast.
Corfu has always been very important strategically, as the entrance to the Adriatic Sea. The main road to Rome, the Appian Way, began at Brindisi, the Italian port a bit to the north of Corfu, where today’s ferry passengers also disembark. It was also the gateway to the eastern empire and for ships needing to refresh supplies of food and water it was an essential stop.
Remains of a Roman villa with baths
There are remains of a Roman villa with baths on the Kapsokavadis family land, in the centre of the village of Benitses.
At the East end there is a large hall (Caldarium in Latin), with dimensions 4.70 x 6m, its entrance is from the north and the housing is based on arches (ride).
The walls are almost one metre (90 centimeters) thick, and are built of the same size bricks and mortar, in some places the stones are irregular, elsewhere there are bricks and mortar, and preserved at the bottom are sections that were probably made of marble.
In the four corners and in the centre of each wall are clay water pipes.
The floor has a very colourful mosaic with geometric jewels and has a rectangular opening communicating with the basement area (hypocaust) whose central area was surrounded by a vaulted corridor.
In the South wall there is a small semicircular niche, its floor is lower than the rest and separated from the rest by a low wall.
Left of the semicircular apse there is a rectangle.
At the west end there is a corridor (with dimensions 0.90 X4, 80m.) that was barrel-vaulted.
Southwest of the first room there is another arched room (Frigitarium), whose dimensions are 4,40 X5,50m.
The floor is of a later period and contains pieces of black and white marble. On the north side a low wall separates this room from the water tank to the north whose base is 2.50 m lower down.
Other large areas have been partly excavated in the adjacent property to the west.
Of the top of the building nothing has been saved , and of course there is no trace of any roof.
How to reach the Corfu Roman baths?
Because the access to the monument is a bit weird… as it is hidden behind houses, we prepared a little guide with photos of the trail that leads there, from the main road right up to the monument.
Somewhere in the village’s inner main street, just opposite the entrance of the Marina, you’ll spot the characteristic renovated old house of the first photo, you will walk to the end of the yard left to this house and at your right handside you will find the narrow path of the second photo, follow this path and after 3-4 yards on your left side you will see the narrow street of the third photo, arriving at the end of it you will find an opening as shown in the fourth photo, after 50 more yards on your right you will find the baths as they look in the last pic