A Mosque-Hammam-Khan Complex at Apollonia

The Roman road system is fairly well known. In the Balkans the most critical road that the Romans constructed was the Via Egnatia, which was built in the second century BC and named after Gnaeus Egnatius. It served as the major east-west artery through the Balkans during Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman times. As such, it contained numerous stations (e.g., Mutatio Valentia), at which travelers could rest for the night, take a meal, replenish their supplies, feed their pack animals, or take a bath (Traianoupoli is one of these).

One such way station may be found at Apollonia, which is located some 60km east of Thessaloniki and mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. Today it is a small village, with no more than a couple dozen homes clustered around a few serpentine roads. At the end of the village one can find the remains of a reasonably well preserved Ottoman hammam, a partially preserved mosque, and, perhaps, a khan (an inn, or caravanserai). The architecture is typical for a hammam of this type: three rooms arranged in a row along a central axis (a changing room, warm room, and then the hot room). A barrel vaulted cistern sits behind the hot room and was heated directly by a furnace below. The interface between the two was certainly a domed copper boiler, which was shaped as such in order to increase the surface contact between the water and heated copper (much like the Roman testudo). Beyond this, stretching out beneath the baths’ heated spaces, is a standard hypocaust system. A river runs nearby so supplying the bath with water was presumably easy enough. This bath was part of a complex that catered to travelers along the Via Egnatia in Ottoman times. Weary from their long journey, travelers could spend an evening at the inn (the khan), take a bath, get a bite to eat, and tend to their religious needs at the mosque, if need be.

The interior of the hot room

The cistern, with space for copper boiler in the foreground

The mosque, without its original dome

The site also contains a monument to St. Paul, and the locals have identified the rock where he supposedly preached.

This entry was posted in Baths and Bathing, Ottoman Greece. Bookmark the permalink.

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