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Lepcis Magna: Nymphaeum


Nymphaeum. Photo Marco Prins. Lepcis Magna: Phoenician colony, later part of the Carthaginian empire, the kingdom of Massinissa, and the Roman empire. Its most famous son was the emperor Septimius Severus (193-211).
 
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Nymphaeum

East of the Palaestra, the Colonnaded Street begins, which connected the Hadrianic Baths and the Palaestra to the Port of Lepcis Magna. At the beginning of the Colonnaded Street was an oval Plaza. The southeastern part of it was a Nymphaeum, a wall-like fountain.
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Nymphaeum. Photo Marco Prins.

The arch to the left on the photo above was at the beginning of the Colonnaded Street; if you passed through it, you would be on the southeastern sidewalk. The arch to the right, which is only partly visible, was the beginning if the sidewalk along the street between on the one hand the Palaestra and Hadrianic Baths and on the other hand the Wadi Lebda. Colonnaded Street and Plaza were constructed during the reign of Septimius Severus (193-211).

Nymphaeum. Photo Marco Prins.

Of course the Nymphaeum was beautifully decorated. There were two levels of marble columns, made of cipollino from Euboea (lower level) and red granite from Egypt (upper level); in the niches, there must have been statues. Essentially, this fountain was like the wall behind the stage of a Roman theater.

The walls must have been covered with plates of expensive marble, and of course there must have been statues of the Nymphs, the goddesses of the sources. The central apse, where these sculptures must have stood, were destroyed by a flash flood in 1986. The balustrade on this photo is a later addition.

Across the plaza was an exedra (a semi-circular area), of which hardly anything remains, except for several columns of grey, Egyptian granite. However, what survives is the inscription of an expensive silver statue dedicated to Septimia Polla, a sister of the father of the emperor Septimius Severus. It is included in J.M. Reynolds & J.B. Ward Perkins, Inscriptions of Roman Tripolitania (1952 London), #607. The amount of silver equals almost 52 kg. The inscription is shown below; the statue is of course a different one, made of natural stone.


Nymphaeum. Photo Marco Prins.
Inscription for Septimia Polla (IRT 607). Photo Marco Prins. One of the statues from the nymphaeum. Photo Jona Lendering.

Pavement in front of the nymphaeum. Photo Jona Lendering.
SEPTIMIAE
POLLAE  Lvci
SEPTIMI  SEVERI
IIVIRi FLAMinis PERPetui
FILiae Pvblivs SEPTIMIVS
GETA  HERes SORORI
SANCTISSIMAE
EX  ARGento Pondo CXXXXIIII
vnciae X  Semis  DECRETO
SPLENDIDISSIMI
ORDINIS  POSVIT
EX  TESTAMENTO
EIVS  HVIC  DONO
VICESIMAM  ET
ARGenti Pondo IIII S vnciae X Semis
AMPLIVS  QVAM
LEGATVM  EST  ADIECIT
To Septimia
Polla, daughter of Lucius
Septimius Severus,
duumvir, forever priest,
has Publius Septimius
Geta, heir of his most sacred
sister, erected this [statue]
from 144 pounds of silver
and 10 ounces
of the most splendid
quality, as decreed
in her will.
To this gift
was added one twentieth
and 4 pounds, 10 ounces of silver
more than
had been bequeathed.


History Texts Photos
Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2007
Revision: 22 July 2012
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