Meta Sudans

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The Meta Sudans, literally meaning the "sweating turning post", was a large conical shaped monumental fountain in ancient Rome, situated near the Colosseum, north of the Arch of Constantine.

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The Meta Sudans [see Note 1] is thought to have been built during the Flavian dynasty some time between 89 and 96 CE, a few years after completion of the nearby Colosseum in circa 80 CE. It was built at the eastern end of the Via Sacra, where it most likely met the Via Triumphalis, between the Colosseum and the Temple of Venus and Roma, close to the later Arch of Constantine, at the juncture of four regions of ancient Rome: regions I, III, IV, X (and perhaps II).


circa 90 CE

The Meta Sudans fountain was constructed with a brick and concrete core, faced with marble. It seems to have somehow "sweated" the water (sudans means "sweating"), rather than jetting it out the top. Since the structure did not survive to the extent that it could be studied and its functionality could be understood, a number of speculations have been presented in this regard. This means that the water may have oozed out the top, or perhaps that water came from some holes in its side. The monument is estimated to have stood up to seventeen meters tall. Until the twentieth century CE much of its concrete core had still survived up to the height of some nine meters. The conical fountain stood in a circular pool, measuring 16 meters wide and 1.4 meters deep.

Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries CE

circa 1900 CE

A number of photographs from the nineteenth century CE show a conical structure of solid bricks next to the Arch of Constantine, surrounded by its own original, reflecting stone pool. The ruins of the ancient Roman Meta Sudans fountain survived to some extent until 1936 CE, when Benito Mussolini had its remains demolished and paved over to make room for the new traffic circle around the Colosseum. A commemorative plaque was set in the road.

Although the above-ground structure had been demolished, its foundations were later re-excavated in late twentieth century CE, revealing the extensive substructure. Subsequently after another excavation in 1997-98 CE the traffic circle was closed and the area became a pedestrian district. After this excavation the foundations of the large Meta Sudans fountains were left exposed providng an insight in to the large scale of the Roman fountain.

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