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Sacred Springs

14 15 The steaming Hot Springs can be seen in the impressive Roman Bath Museum, in the centre of elegant Bath. Although visited long before Roman times, what we see today are the remains of an extensive Roman temple and bath complex. The ironrich water stains surrounding stonework orange and flows at 250,000 gallons a day with a constant temperature of 46oC. Tradition says that King Bladud, father of King Lear, discovered its curative powers whilst living as a lowly swineherd. He had leprosy, and noticed that the pigs, who had also contracted it, were cured by wallowing in the mud of the Hot Spring. In the museum there is a carved head that may represent King Bladud as a solar deity, though it is also sometimes identified as Medusa. The Celtic goddess of the Hot Spring was Sulis, who the Romans identified with Minerva. The city was named Aquae Sulis, and the temple dedicated to SulisMinerva. The Romans left many offerings to the gods, chiefly coins, showing the link to wishing wells. The spring was also used for cursing, to invoke retribution on an enemy. Curses, inscribed on stones or lead sheets, were cast in the water. Nearby is the handsome Monks Well at Monkton Farleigh, and the fernlined basins of the Holy Well of Conkwell, near Winsley, where wishes can be made while drinking its water. ThE hOT SPRINGS Bath, Somerset
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