Heating and Fuel Consumption in the Terme del Foro at Ostia

Miliaresis, Ismini Alexandra, Department of Art, University of Virginia
Dobbins, John, Department of Art, University of Virginia
Ribando, Robert, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of Virginia
Smith, Tyler, Department of Art, University of Virginia
Frischer, Bernard, Department of Classics, University of Virginia

This study examines how the heating systems of the ancient Roman baths operated and the amount of fuel needed to run them. The Terme del Foro (Forum Baths) at Ostia Antica are used as a case study, because they are structurally well-preserved, contain both typical and unusual architectural elements in their design, and were one of the most important bathing facilities in the Roman city. By using an interdisciplinary approach that synthesizes archaeological data, ancient literary sources, comparative visual and physical evidence, modern experimental calculations, and heat transfer equations, a more complete picture of Roman baths is created. In this way, the reliability of the results is greatly expanded by minimizing unnecessary assumptions. This study also presents the archaeological history of bathing and a summary of bath research, and it provides a structural examination of the Terme del Foro. A database program has been created to store all of the physical data collected from the site and to process measurements through heat transfer equations. In this way, simple mistakes are avoided, all calculations are performed consistently, and results are produced instantaneously. Moreover, small permutations can be made to the initial base study design to illustrate how changes in temperature, time of year, hour of the day, and structural modifications affected fuel consumption. Once the necessary quantity of fuel for heating the Terme del Foro to the proper temperatures is determined, the greater implications of these results are examined. By computing the total weight and the total volume of space that the necessary wood occupied, the number of trees that had to be harvested, the number of carts needed to transport the fuel to the city, the ease of moving the wood through the city, and the necessary storage space for a month's supply of fuel is ascertained. Questions of deforestation are addressed, and it is concluded that the Terme del Foro did not create a heavy burden on the neighboring forestland. Instead, the operation of the baths was efficient enough that fewer than 150 trees had to be harvested to fuel the baths for an entire year.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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