Nymphaeum (Petra)

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The Nymphaeum was a grand public fountain along Petra's Colonnaded Street. Only the foundations remain today, standing in the shade of a tree. Very little is left, but one can imagine from similar monuments elsewhere (the Nymphaeum in Jerash, for example) what this public fountain, with plays of water to delight both the ear and the eye, would have looked like.


The remains of the Nymphaeum. It was situated at the confluence of two watercourses, dedicated to the water nymphs and was probably one of the improvements made to the city after the Roman annexation. It is a semi-circular public fountain near the junction of Wadi Musa and Wadi al-Mataha and six Nabataean columns decorated the fa├žade. Virtually nothing remains of the ancient superstructure, and even the retaining wall is modern.

Location and Archaeological Remains

circa 100 CE

Its location is key, at the confluence of the Wadi Musa, flowing from east to west, and the Wadi Mataha, bringing the water diverted by the dam at the Siq entrance into the city from the northeast. It may also have been the terminus for the terracotta pipes and channels bringing water through the Siq itself. The sight and sound of water tumbling from such a monument must have been wonderful in such a parched city centre.

Architectural Resemblance with Jerash Nymphaeum

circa 100 CE

The Roman era nymphaeum at Jerash, in the city of Petra the Nymphaeum (a shrine consecrated to water nymphs, often with a fountain) was on the southside of the street and a series of monumental spaces, which were once identified as markets. During the early Roman and then the subsequent period of Byzantine influence, Petra flourished. Several new temples, churches and tombs were built and marble-paved colonnaded walkways lined by public buildings, such as this nymphaeum to collect spring water, were created.

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