A little history:
The site of the Baia Roman baths dates around the first century b.C..
First urban settlements (roman villas) of the area date from around the third century b.C..
Ottaviano Augusto, during his empire (27 b.C.- 14 AD), ordered the architect Sergio Orata to combine the Roman villas into a single thermal site and was able to engineer piping warm spring to different rooms. At Baia Sergio Orata (called so because he operated a successful fish farm mariculture in Lake Lucrino, in particular raising sea breams) also experimented with new architectural techniques later used in Rome, the dome of the Pantheon being a prime example. Over time, the Roman Baia baths were underwent many changes.
Subsequent emperors enlarged the structures eventually creating a classic Roman thermal bath complex.
From the photos that Larry scanned and posted on the Forum, the tunnels seem to clearly be Roman. However Homer in the XI book of Odyssey tell us Ulysses came ashore near the city of Cimmerii, where “you couldn't see the sun, neither when it rose nor when it set.” The legend indicates that is where Ulisses went down into netherworld. But who are the Cimmerii?
Strabone tell us the Cimmerii lived in caves called Argille and they operated mines in the area, also offering visits to their Oracle. Then we are told that the Cimmerii were killed by an indeterminate local king because he was displeased with a prophecy, but the Oracle was preserved and moved to another location.
Still Strabone tell us Cimè (Cuma) was founded by Cimmerii and Greeks...
He also describes a large tunnel (Crypta Neapolitana) commissioned by Cocceio that provided a direct route from Pozzuoli to Naples “a la Cimmerii.” If the very early Cimmerii actually built tunnels for the Romans we can't be certain, however in Naples there were quarters where the Cimmerii lived and some streets have their name.
Esichio tell us Cimmaris was the nickname of Cibele also called Sibyl, the Earth Mother, and she was said to have been visited and adored in “underground temples.”
Servio, Cluverio, Licofrone, Eforo, Ovidio, Silio Italico, Plinio, Festo, Cicerone, Esiodo and others make mention of the Cimmerii and describe their origins and customs.
In the meantime great geological events over millennia have changed and reshaped this land with the rising and falling of tectonic plates from geothermal activity that continues to this day.
Publius Vergilius Maro, better known to us as Virgil, the classical Roman Poet who wrote the Aeneid, still plays a big part in the myth and legend of Naples and it is still claimed that he is buried above the Mergellina quarter of the city.
The legends and myths in this ancient historic area provide for endless discussion and interpretation. I plan to go to Baia as soon as I can to explore and continue our research.
Here’s another local pearl: who knows why the local dialect in Pozzuoli is so different from others? We will look at that fascinating story another time.