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p363 Nymphaeum

Article on pp363‑364 of

Samuel Ball Platner (as completed and revised by Thomas Ashby):
A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome,
London: Oxford University Press, 1929.

Black-and‑white images are from Platner; any color photos are mine © William P. Thayer.

Nymphaeum (1): a monumental fountain, fed by the aqua Iulia (LA 393‑395), between the via Tiburtina vetus and the via Labicana. The existing remains, of brick-faced concrete, show a two-storied façade with a wide central niche and arched openings on each side. In front, was a curved basin into which the water flowed from the building behind (Durm, fig. 543; for list of further illustrations, see HJ 348). In the side openings stood the marble trophies (trophaea) which were removed in 1590 by Sixtus V and set up on the balustrade of the Piazza del Campidoglio (LS III.168; HF I. p409). Their style is certainly Domitianic (SScR i.128, who attributes them to Domitian's double triumph over the Chatti and Dacians in 89 A.D.), but they were not made for this setting, but for another, in which a Victory stood between them (Mitt. 1923‑4, 185‑192). A quarry mark of Domitian is said to have been seen under one of them (Cittadini ap. Martinelli, Roma ex ethn. sacra, 430; Mitt. 1891, 44; HJ 349, n16) and an inscription (CIL VI.1207=31263), p364quoted by Petrarch and copied (in part only), near the Lateran about 1470, may also be attributed to that emperor (Mitt. 1899, 255‑259).

Despite what has been said to the contrary, however, the brickwork of the structure itself is not of the time of Domitian, but probably of Alexander Severus, on whose coins the building appears to be represented (Cohen 297‑303, 479, 480).

In the Middle Ages this nymphaeum had already been connected with Marius and his triumph over the Cimbri, and it appears as Cimbrum in a document of 1176 (Jord. II.517), in the Mirabilia and the Ordo Benedicti (Jord. II.640, 665); as templum Marii (Ordo Benedicti, Mirabilia, locc. citt.), and as Marii Cimbrum (Petrarch, Ep. VI.2; Rem. i.118). Poggio (ap. Urlichs, 236) says that this templum was built by Marius from the spoils of the Cimbri and that his trophaea were still visible on the monument, confusing these trophies with the Marii Monumenta (q.v.). This confusion may have been due to the fact that, after the damnatio memoriae, Domitian's name was erased from so many inscriptions that some of his buildings were attributed to others (HJ 348‑350; Durm 475; Maass, Die Tagesgötter in Rom u. den Provinzen, Berlin 1902, 64‑65; D'Esp. Mon. II.176‑7; Fr. ii.63‑65; YW 1923‑4, 107; DuP 115‑117).


[image ALT: The ruins of a polygonal hulk of a multi-arched brick structure, about 3 stories high, on a busy street. It is the so‑called Temple of Minerva Medica, 'Nymphaeum (2)' in this article of Platner and Ashby's Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome.]
The so‑called Temple of Minerva Medica: Nymphaeum (2), below.
(I've edited out some ugly tram cables from the sky to the left, but didn't dare remove them from the nymphaeum!)

Nymphaeum (2): on the Esquiline, between the via Labicana and the Aurelian wall, just inside the line of the Anio vetus. There is no mention of this structure in ancient literature or inscriptions, but it is without doubt a monumental nymphaeum. The existing ruins consist of a decagonal hall of opus latericium, which was covered with a domed roof until part of it fell in 1828, surrounded on three sides with other chambers added at a later date. In the interior of the hall are nine niches, besides the entrance; and above these are ten corresponding round-arched windows. The diameter of the hall is about 24 metres, and the height was 33. It is very important from the structural point of view, and especially for the meridian ribs in the dome. The outside walls were covered with marble and the interior richly decorated in a similar manner (Durm, figs. 306‑308, 313, 339; Choisy, pl. X. i. pp82‑84; Sangallo, Barb. 12; Giovannoni in Ann. d. Società d. Ingegneri, 1904, 165‑201; LS III.158‑161; JRS 1919, 176, 182; RA 182‑188; cf. HJ 360, n44, for references to other illustrations and plans).1 In the fifteenth century Flavius Blondus (Roma Instaurata) called these ruins Le Galluzze, a name of uncertain meaning that had been applied earlier to some ruins near S. Croce in Gerusalemme (Jord. II.130‑131). Since the seventeenth century the nymphaeum has frequently been called Templum Minervae Medicae (q.v.), on account of the erroneous impression that the Giustiniani Athene had been found in its ruins (HJ 360; LS III.158‑161). It is now often attributed to the Horti Liciniani, but without adequate reason.

Nymphaeum (3): in the Via Annibaldi, between the Via Cavour and the Colosseum: see Domus Aurea (p169).

Nymphaeum Alexandri: on the Esquiline in Region V (Not. Cur.), mentioned also in one inscription (CIL VI.31893d, 5). It was probably a monumental fountain connected with the aqua Alexandrina. For a discussion of its identification with either of the nymphaea described above, or with another that is reported to have been found in the Villa Altieri, see HJ 350; Jord. I.1.478; Mitt. 1923‑4, 185‑192; LA 385‑386, and literature cited there.

Nymphaeum Flavi Philippi: known from an inscription of the fifth century (CIL VI.1728) in three copies, two of which have disappeared. The third was found in the Via Cavour near the church of S. Francesco di Paola, and some ruins beneath this church are thought to have belonged to the nymphaeum (BC 1887, 333‑335; NS 1887, 445; HJ 332; CIL VI.31912).

Nymphaeum Iovis: somewhere in Region VII (Not. Cur.), probably in the southern part (BC 1887, 144‑145).

Nymphaea Tria: on the Aventine in Region XIII (Not. Cur.). This was probably a monumental structure into which three fountains were brought together, and perhaps the same as the nymfea tria attributed to Diocletian (Chron. 148; cf. Pr. Reg. 110; Jord. II.38; HJ 169).


The Authors' Note:

references to other illustrations and plans: Cf. also Altm. 81‑84; ASA 82.


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Page updated: 21 Oct 03