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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke July 5, 2024

Photo doesn’t show Roman-era baths in Malta, and it doesn’t disprove climate change

If Your Time is short

  • Pools in Sliema, Malta, are referred to as Roman baths but were constructed in Victorian times, according to the Maltese government. 

An image of turquoise waters in rocky baths abutting the sea has recently spread on social media as evidence that climate change isn’t real. 

"Roman tidal baths in Malta, still at sea level after thousands of years!" a July 1 Facebook post sharing the photo said. "Best ask what your children are being taught." 

This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

A reverse-image search led us to an April 2019 Thrillist post on Instagram that identified the photographer as Julia Kivelä and the location as Sliema, Malta. 

Kivelä, who identifies herself on Instagram as a Finland-based photographer, posted it on her own Instagram account in March 2019.

"Amazing pools in Sliema," she said.

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Travel website Atlas Obscura published a story about these "Roman baths of Sliema" on June 18. 

But "despite the name," the story said, "these small saltwater swimming pools have nothing to do with the Romans." The Roman Empire lasted from about 625 B.C. to A.D. 476.

"Instead, they appear to have their origins in the late 19th century, when Malta was a colony of the United Kingdom," the Atlas Obscura article said. "Although the details are unclear, it seems like some wealthy Victorian people with nearby residences had pools carved out of the limestone rock for their personal use."

Malta Today, an English-language publication in Malta, said in a 2018 story that the pools "probably date back to the 19th or early 20th centuries."

Malta’s Department of Information said in a 2022 Facebook post that the "‘Roman Baths’ (constructed in the Victorian era, 1837 to 1901 are still a popular attraction and enjoyed by many during the summer months."

Global warming means sea level has risen about 8 to 9 inches since 1880, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But rates of local sea level on the coast can be larger or smaller than the global average, the agency said. 

We rate claims that this photo shows Roman baths that are thousands years old False.


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Photo doesn’t show Roman-era baths in Malta, and it doesn’t disprove climate change

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