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The hot springs were a centre of cult from ancient times and were probably linked to the worship of Hercules. Aristotle noted them in his Meteorologica and Strabo referred to them as the ‘Springs of Hercules’. The town grew up in the
Hellenistic period and was visited by later Macedonian kings. One of the most famous visitors in the Roman period was Sulla, who came here to cure his gout; Plutarch de scribes the great banquets he gave. The spa achieved its greatest prosperity between 100 bc and 400 ad when numerous emperors and dignitaries visited, including Hadrian, Septimius Severus and Constantine the Great. The spa suffered with the arrival of Christianity when early Christians attacked what they saw as a cause of the dissipation of the inhabit ants. It revived after the establishment of a bishopric in the 8th century, under the Metropolitan of Athens. Under Frankish rule the town was known as ‘Lipso’. It went into decline as a result of the growth of pira cy and in the 15th century was laid waste by raiders. After Greek Independence little happened until the end of the 19th century when the spa was gradually developed under the influence of a new European predilection for ‘taking waters’. It became the most fashionable resort in Greece for a time after World War I when the poet Cavafy was a visitor and well-to do Athenians came to gamble in its Casino.
The water can be taken today (as guest or non resident) in any one of the larger spa hotels, such as the Avra Hotel or the grander Thermae Sylla (Sulla), which was founded in 1896 and has received in its history such illustrious guests as Greta Garbo, Maria Callas and Winston Churchill. Otherwise there are the main Municipal Thermal Baths, now housed in a large ungainly building—a poor but more practical successor to the grand, neoclassical baths of yore. Most simply, the waters can be enjoyed on the main, south-facing beach where there are underwater hot springs in addition to the water which flows from the sources into the sea: the warmth and sulphur attract a unique diversity of fish and marine-life. The waters rise at temperatures between 34Β° and 71Β°C and enjoy a reputation for curing gout, rheumatism, sciatica and arthritis. The ancients believed, probably not erroneously, that the springs were in some way connected with those of Thermopylae on the opposite, mainland coast.
A small Archaeological Collection (notionally open 10–1 daily, except Sun, July–Sept, but currently closed for lack of staff) is gathered in two rooms on the upper floor of the Municipal Bathing Centre.
Room I exhibits prehistoric finds, including fragments of Mycenaean pottery and a bronze sword of the same epoch, found near Kastaniotissa;
Room II has mostly inscriptions, and architectural and sculptural fragments in marble from the city’s classical and Byzantine buildings, including areas of the 5th century mosaic floor from the thermae. Also exhibited in the upper floor of the hallway of the building, and freely accessible whenever the baths are open (daily 7–9), are two pieces of note: the headless, 1st century ad statue of a man wearing a himation (the missing head was originally part of the whole single piece of marble), and a fine Roman relief, figuring the bow and pelt of Hercules, in which there is a pleasing and harmonious play of contours and forms.
A number of pieces (in scribed, statue bases and other fragments) lie to either side of the entrance to the building and in the adjacent park.
Next door to the Municipal Baths building stands the former neoclassical Bath House with its horseshoe of private, marble bathing tubs, and a high central hall, currently in a perilous state of disrepair.
Euboea Island, Greece