Built In Art

Fountains of the Roman Empire

The water-supply of Rome were on a scale to be expected from a people of such great practical power. In De aquaeductu, Julius Sextus Frontinus (40–103 AD) listed more than 600 fountains in Rome.

 

The remains of the aqueducts which stretched from the city across the Campagna are amongst the most striking monuments of Italy. Vitruvius gives minute particulars concerning the methods to be employed for the discovery, testing and distribution of water, and describes the properties of different waters with great care, proving the importance which was attached to these matters by the Romans The aqueducts supplied the baths and the public fountains, from which last all the populace, except such as could afford to pay for a separate pipe to their houses, obtained their water These fountains were therefore of large size and numerous. TIhey were formed at many of the castella of the aqueducts. According to Vitruvius, each castellum should have three pipes,—one for public fountains, one for baths and the third for private houses Considerable revenue was drawn from the possessors of private water pipes The Roman fountains were generally decorated with figures and heads. Fountains were often also the ornament of Roman villas and country houses, in those so situated the water generally fell from above into a large marble basin, with at times a second fall into a still lower receptacle.

Pompeii

There were fountains at most of the street corners in Pompeii. Many had their own water tank made of four blocks of volcanic rock. Some were placed next to a tower at the top of wich was a lead tank. Water was distributed through lead pipes . Only the very wealthy citizens of Pompeii had water distributed to their own houses. Many of them had mosaic fountains (there are about 20 mosaic fountains in Pompeii.) Mosaic was made of small stones of three different colors, azure, blue and green. Their design features divinities such as Neptunus, Oceanus, Neveides, Venus ....

fountain heads pompeii

 

Two adjacent houses in Pompeii had very remarkable fountains covered with a sort of mosaic consisting of vitrified tesserae of different colours, but in which blue predominates. These are sometimes arranged in not inelegant patterns, and the grand divisions as well as the borders are entirely formed and ornamented with real sea-shells, neither calcined by the heat of the eruption nor changed by the lapse of so many centuries. Another of large size was similarly decorated with marine shells, and is supposed to have borne two sculptured figures, one of which, a bronze, is in the museum at Naples. This fountain projects 5 ft. 7 in. from the wall against which it is placed, and is 7 ft. wide in front, while the height of the structure up to the eaves of the pediment is 7 ft. 7 in. On a central column in the piscina was a statue of Cupid, with a dove, from the moutli of which water issued.

fountain with sculpted heads pompeii

 

Cicero had, at his villa at Formiae, a fountain which was decorated with marine shells. Fountains were very common in the open spaces and at the crossways in Pompeii. They were supplied by leaden pipes from the reservoirs, and had little ornament except a human or animal head, from the mouth of which it was arranged that the water should issue. Not only did simple running fountains exist, but the remains of jets d'eou have been found, and a drawing exists representing a vase with a double jet of water, standing on a pedestal placed in what is supposed to have been the impluvium of a house. There was also a jet d’eau at the eastern end of the peristyle of the Fullonica at Pompeii.

 

SOURCES:

The aqueducts, fountains and springs of ancient Rome by S. Russell Forbes

2000 Fountains in Rome : a Complete Collection By Marvin Pulvers

de Architectura, Book VIII by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio:

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