1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Nymphaeum

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Nymphaeum (Gr. νύμφαιον, νυμφαῖον), in Greek and Roman antiquities, a monument consecrated to the nymphs (q.v.), especially those of springs. These monuments were originally natural grottoes, which tradition assigned as habitations to the local nymphs. They were sometimes so arranged as to furnish a supply of water. Subsequently, artificial took the place of natural grottoes. The nymphaea of the Roman period were borrowed from the constructions of the Hellenistic east. The majority of them were rotundas, and were adorned with statues and paintings. They served the threefold purpose of sanctuaries, reservoirs and assembly-rooms. A special feature was their use for the celebration of marriages. Such nymphaea existed at Corinth, Antioch and Constantinople; the remains of some twenty have been found at Rome and of many in Africa. The so-called exedra of Herodes Atticus (which answers in all respects to a nymphaeum in the Roman style), the nymphaeum in the palace of Domitian and those in the villa of Hadrian at Tibur (five in number) may be specially mentioned. The term nymphaeum was also applied to the fountains of water in the atrium of the Christian basilica, which according to Eusebius (x. 4) were symbols of purification.