Fountain decoration

To see how interchangeable such facade decoration is, at Side one only has to walk east, toward the so-called Imperial Room, the interior of which is decorated with much the same statue- inhabited projecting aedicules and niches (reconstruction in Mansel 1963, 113). A clinching argument comes from Ephesus: the Library of Celsus apparently fell into ruin in the third century but, at the end of the fourth century, a large water basin was built in front of it, where its piazza had been, and its figured facade used as the typical backdrop of a monumental nymphaeum (Foss 1979, 65). The final effect would have been close to that of the Roman stage architecture of the nearby theatre. Of the aqueducts feeding Ephesus, the one spanning a valley to the east of the site, and built by C. Sextilius Pollio at the very beginning of our era, is arguably one of the best-preserved such structures anywhere, and still suave with its arches of dressed stone.

In most towns, one monumental fountain was insufficient. Side, for example, as well as the triple-storeyed nymphaeum, had at least two more, articulated with columns and statues and fed by cisterns. If any further indication is needed of the prestige invested in "water display", the nymphaeum at Side is not in the city (where one might expect it to be the more appreciated by the citizens), but just outside and facing the Great Gate. Furthermore, what better evidence than this of a penchant for theatricality - for impressing the visitor rather than the citizen? Standing with one's back to the nymphaeum, one could glimpse the colonnaded street, Palladio-like, through the Great Gate; while approaching the Gate down the main street, the nymphaeum would in its turn be visible.

The same technical expertise that furnished fountains was also available by the beginning of our era for piped water supplied under pressure - the best surviving example being the tall settlement tanks and distributors still to be seen at Pompeii. At Ephesus, some private houses are supplied with piped water, even though they stand well over five metres above the level of the main street. As one might expect, several of the larger houses here and elsewhere had their own, private baths; there are, for example, some sumptuous ones at Arycandra.


If civilization has to do with the activities of urban communities which are above and beyond those required for mere survival, then this would certainly be impossible without well-drained land, fresh water, and foul and storm water drainage conduits. Civilization, we might say, is built upon and depends upon drains; and streets, let alone temple precincts and gleaming public squares and buildings, cannot survive unless their areas are drained. We are reminded of this when walking around antique sites and taking care (as we always must, especially when off the beaten track) not to fall down into them. Even if the superstructures of buildings have gone, the drains are usually visible, often being uncovered for part of their length. In some cases they still do their job, draining sites which would otherwise become a quagmire in wet weather, and unsanitary and unsafe as a result. And plenty of cities further west still use conduits of Roman (and/or Etruscan) origin for part of their drainage system - some of them, like parts of the system in Rome, extensive enough to keep the local sub-aqua club occupied.

Evidence of drains and water supply methods is to be seen at almost all antique sites, although visitors are usually unable to explore them in depth, so to speak. Drainpipes (occasionally of lead or even wood but usually of clay) have changed as little since Roman times as handtools or roofing tiles. Since the task is the same, then so is the basic technology - joints, sumps, settlement tanks, inspection chambers, syphons and even water delivery under pressure, thanks to elevated storage tanks. The best sites on which to study drainage are those currently being dug. At Iasos, for example, the agora paving has been partly uncovered to study later burials, and it is easy to trace the drainage all around this large area. Around Roman baths drains and water pipes are especially in evidence, because of the vast quantities of water they consumed.

Consequences of bad drainage

Likewise the consequences of bad drainage are also visible on many ancient sites. They might arise from poor maintenance in a period of decline, when insufficient manpower was available to do the work or (as with the water supply) to monitor the many kilometres of channels. They might also arise from the slow but inexorable alterations to rivers, or even from speedy changes to the lie of the land occasioned by earthquake. At Aphrodisias, for example, a series of earthquakes resulted in the flooding of the agora, whereupon this was abandoned, and a new meeting-place built on higher ground adjacent to the theatre. At Ephesus, exploration of the harbour area is now very difficult because of the silting suffered over the centuries - although the malaria complained of by travellers in earlier centuries has now gone. Chronic drainage problems could lead to steady decline in the prospects for the whole site (see below, the chapter on Decline).


From here you may also go to The Preface, The Introduction, Archaeology in Turkey, Building for Splendour, Town Planning, The Architecture of Work & Leisure, Religion: Temples & Special Sanctuaries, Funerary Art & Architecture, Decline & Renewal, The Conclusion, The Bibliography, or The Table of Contents

Greek & Roman Cities of Western Turkey