The Hadrianic Nymphaeum

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The remains of the Hadrianic Nymphaeum are located on top of the terrace limiting the north side of the Lower Agora. The excavations undertaken in 2003 and 2004 brought to light an extremely well-preserved monumental fountain, still provided with the greatest part of its original decoration. The nymphaeum was erected in a higher position above the level of the public square and the south-north colonnaded street running through the lower city. This emplacement offered a possibility to maximize the power of the façade as visual and decorative backdrop for the perspective created by the street and its lateral porticoes.

Based on the style of the architectural and sculptural decoration as well as on the dedicatory inscription for the emperor Hadrian, the construction of the Hadrianic Nymphaeum should likely be assigned to the period between the years 128/129 and 134 AD. The fountain consisted of a two-storied pi-shaped façade framing a rectangular water basin. The overall length of the façade was of 16.92 m, for a maximal width of 5.77 m at the frontal extremity of the lateral wings. The drawing basin measured 12 x 2.75 m for a depth of ca. 0.90 m. The upper part of the elevation was erected on top of a lower podium accessible from the street via a short staircase of eight steps. Just above the basin, the lower podium was interrupted at regular intervals by slightly projecting pillars, onto which were carved figures of the Muses, reclining fluvial gods and Nereids standing on seaborne creatures. The upper elevation consisted of a two-storied tabernacle architectural display supported by a backwall animated with niches alternatively rectangular and curved. Only the curved niches were framed by projecting tabernacles, leaving a sufficient height in the middle for the colossal statue of Apollo Kitharoidos. The projecting sections of the upper level were topped with triangular half-gables. Those crowning the central section of the façade were decorated with reliefs depicting Tritons blowing horns and a Medusa head intertwined in vegetal motifs.

The discovery of many statues and statues fragments allowed a reliable reconstruction of the nymphaeum's original statuary decoration. A colossal statue of Apollo was the main focal point of the statuary program, in the central niche of the ground floor. It was framed to the east by depictions of a Satyr and of Poseidon. Two fragmentary male torsi were probably their counterparts to the west of the colossal statue. Three inscribed statue bases and fragments of bronze statues suggest that a gilded bronze statue of Hadrian must have been standing in the middle of the upper floor, framed by two plain bronze depictions of the founder of the building, the high priest of the Imperial cult and agonothetes for life of the Klareia Ti. Claudius Peison. In the two lateral niches of the upper floor were possibly displayed a private female statue in the type of the Große Herkulanerin to the east, and a lost private statue as counterpart to the west. A half-nude Aphrodite - which was added later and must have replaced an older statue - originated from the eastern lateral wing. She must have had as counterpart in the western wing another Aphrodite, to which a separated fragmentary head could have belonged. The statuary display in the lateral wings of the lower storey is more difficult to reconstruct: a depiction of Herakles and an unidentified fragment of a male statue the east possibly originate from the west and east lower lateral wings, respectively.