This page attempts to enlist all the known nymphaea built by the Romans or in Roman architecture. Roman Nymphaea were elaborate fountains and monumental structures dedicated to the nymphs, who were associated with springs, rivers, and other sources of water. These structures were typically found in public spaces such as forums, markets, and plazas, and often served as important gathering places for people.
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Nymphaea (plural of nymphaeum) are architectural structures that served as monumental fountains or water features in ancient Greek and Roman cities. The architecture of nymphaea varied in design and complexity, but typically featured a central water basin or pool, often surrounded by columns, statues, and decorative elements such as reliefs and niches.
The façade of a nymphaeum could be designed in various styles, such as a simple wall with niches or a more elaborate two or three-story structure with columns, pediments, and other decorative features. Some nymphaea had an apse-like structure, while others were designed like a theater's scaenae frons.
The size and complexity of nymphaea depended on their location and purpose, with some serving as public works projects to bring water to cities, while others were built as grandiose displays of wealth and power by wealthy individuals. Many nymphaea were also integrated into broader architectural ensembles, such as public squares or city centers.
The Nymphaeum of Petra was a giant water fountain in the center of Petra - an extraordinary luxury in the middle of the desert. It was built during the 1st century CE, and was one of the largest and most impressive structures in Petra. The nymphaeum was located near the city center and was supplied with water by an aqueduct system that brought water from the nearby mountains.
The Petra Nymphaeum was approximately 25 meters wide and 6 meters deep, with a height of around 12 meters. It was carved into the rock face and consists of a series of columns and arches that surround a large rectangular pool. The façade of the nymphaeum was adorned with elaborate carvings and reliefs depicting various gods, goddesses, and mythological scenes.
Though today not much remais standing of the great Petra Nymphaeum, it is believed to have served as a major public gathering place, as well as a source of water for the surrounding neighborhoods. The nymphaeum was likely an important symbol of the wealth and power of the city, and would have been a striking sight for visitors to Petra.
Farnesian Nymphaeum in Roman Forum
From the garden of Horti Farnesiani, covering the foundations of the Domus Tiberiana, a series of stairs and ramps led down towards the so-called Clivus Palatinus and the garderns facing the Colosseum. On this side of the hill are the remains of a semi-circular nymphaeum built in imitation of a grotto up against the ancient walls. Opening in to the wall of the nymphaeum are niches which hosted statues of Satyrs holding up mirrors, which gave the nymphaeum its name. Water fell like rain from the top of the vault, not lost, encrusted with colored stones and enamels; water also gushed up at the base of niches and, unexpectedy, from little holes in the floor in front of the nymphaeum, also made of a mosaic of colored stones.
The Nymphaeum at Jerash is a grand fountain located along the cardo. The structure was made up of two wings which enclosed a central semicircular apse, covered with a concrete vault. The facade consisted of two levels, adorned with reliefs, panels, and columns that featured Corinthian capitals. The lower level was adorned with marble panels, while the upper level was decorated with painted stucco. The water that flowed from the lion head mouths emptied into a large basin that spanned the width of the building. The water flowed continually and was collected by the street's sewage system when it overflowed.
Nymphaeum of Miletus
The Nymphaeum of Miletus is a fountain structure located in the west part of the city between the North Agora and the Gymnasium of Eudemus and the Capito Thermae. It was designed like a theater's scaenae frons with three storeys and decorated with columns, niches, and aediculae to display statues. It had two water basins, with an upper level basin collecting water and supplying the lower level basin.
Pisidian Antiocheia Nymphaeum
The nymphaeum building in Antiocheia Pisidina was built to collect water brought by the aqueduct and distribute it throughout the city. The complex included a reservoir, an ornamented facade building, and a pool. The aqueduct brought water to the city from the "Suçıkan" source in the Sultan Mountains. Excavations in the nympheum only reveal the foundations and no inscription has been found associated with the building.
Trajanic Nymphaeum in Ephesus
The Trajanic Nymphaeum in Ephesus is a monumental fountain that was built during the reign of Emperor Trajan in the early 2nd century CE. It was located in the heart of the city, at the intersection of the two main streets of Ephesus, the Arcadian Way and the Marble Street.
It was a large fountain that consisted of a rectangular pool measuring 32 by 23 meters, surrounded by a two-story colonnade made of marble and brick. The colonnade had columns with Corinthian capitals. A small temple dedicated to the emperor and goddess Artemis was situated on a small island in the center of the pool, which was accessible by two bridges. The fountain received water from a nearby spring via an aqueduct. As a public monument and source of water, the Trajanic Nymphaeum played an important role in Ephesus. Although only the foundations of the fountain exist today, they offer valuable insights into the design and engineering of the impressive structure.
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