James Whitred

“Enter, enjoy and … ” entices an inscription on a plastered panel on the side of a bathtub inside a fourth- to sixth-century A.D. bathhouse. The words lie within a tabula ansata frame—a rectangle with two inward-pointing triangles on either side. Resisting the temptation to plunge in are author Stager (right), director of the Ashkelon excavations, and Douglas Esse, then associate director.

The bathhouse was built over several earlier villas, including the villa with the erotic lamps. The excavators are not sure whether the upper structure was a small public bath or a large private one. Based on similar inscriptions from other Roman-period bathhouses, the “Enter, enjoy and … ” exhortation may have been simply a warm welcome and not a hint of illicit pleasures to be found within.