Nymphaeum of Via Ricasoli

Between 2000 and 2001, major urban redevelopment work took place on the Esquiline near Termini station, occupied shortly after the Unification of Italy by a large military quarter. On this occasion, the buildings that housed the Sani Barracks, built in 1884 by the architect Joachim Ersoch and since abandoned, were restored and adapted to host the stalls of the bustling market hitherto located in Piazza Vittorio.

A few tens of centimetres beneath the modern floors, renovation work brought to light the remains of a monumental fountain, probably dating to the third century AD. This structure, which must have measured almost 50 metres in length, was certainly in full view of anyone travelling along the stretch of the Via Tiburtina inside the Aurelian walls and probably also served to support the slight slope behind it.

Observing the few remains preserved today, it is not easy to imagine the spectacle that this monument offered to anyone travelling along the road. We are assisted by the reconstructions of another famous public fountain, the Septizodium, which stood on the eastern slopes of the Palatine and was portrayed by Roman artists until the sixteenth century, when the last visible remains were demolished.

The remains of the building on the Esquiline allow us to imagine a structure consisting of two slightly staggered monumental stage sets, facing towards the street. The two structures, a few metres apart, must have been reminiscent of a theatre, with the fa├žade enlivened by semi-circular exhedras and arranged on several storeys, probably decorated with marble columns. The semi-circular spaces may have hosted statues or water features, fountains or little cascades that flowed into a rectangular basin placed in front of the monument.