Location: On the western side of the Panathenaic Way, near the SE corner of the Agora square. Between numbers 18, 16, and 15 in the Agora plan of the Guide: Μc Camp II, J., The Athenian Agora, A Short Guide to the Excavations, Excavations of the Athenian Agora, Picture Book no 16, American School of Classical Studies, Princeton 2003, pp. 2 and 24-25.
Date of Construction:  The period of Emperor Hadrian’s rule (113-138 A.D.).
Periods of Use: Roman.


The Nymphaeum is one of the buildings with which Emperor Hadrian adorned the Agora of Athens.  It lies over the ruins of the NE side of the Mint and is in turn largely overlaid by the Byzantine church of Agion Apostolon (SS. Apostles).  As a result, it is survives in a very poor state.


The term ‘Nymphaeum’ describes a lavish building of the Roman period housing a drinking fountain, intricately adorned and decorated with sculptures, which usually included statues and busts of the members of the imperial family.

The Nymphaeum of the Athenian Agora is connected to the water pipe of the Great Aqueduct, which connected Mt. Penteli to Athens, and which, according to its votive inscription, is attributed to Hadrian, although it was completed after the emperor’s death by his successor, Antoninus Pius (140 AD). It is but one of many similar spaces in the SE corner of the Agora related to the provision of fresh water (SE Fountain and others).  This is the spot were water conduits coming various areas of Attica converged, while the fact that it rises above the other parts of the Agora square is surely reason enough for this concentration.  Thus, it is likely that the Nymphaeum constituted the monumental culmination of this gigantic project aimed at securing a supply of potable water for the city.  It is unclear, however, whether the building had been completed before the completion of the Aqueduct (140 AD), or it was erected immediately afterwards.

The shape of the Agora Nymphaeum was semicircular, and had a northerly orientation and gave on to the Panathenaic Way, which it flanked on the South.  Its reconstruction is rather tentative and it is based on other buildings of similar function (like the Nymphaeum of Herodes Atticus in Olympia, or the fragmentary Nymphaeum in Argos).  The inner side of the semicircle was covered with marble slates, of which only their subbase survives.  In fact, the marble-covered space, which must have formed the basin of the structure housing the fountain, is slightly larger than the semicircle (its radius is 7.10 m).  Its curved side is bordered by a groove 2.60m thick; it supported the building's stone foundations, of which no parts remain. Along the straight side of the semicircle lays a tall pedestal 3.6m in width with a three-stepped staircase, which allowed access to the building through the N.  On the rear side of the pedestal, on the axis of the building, the trace of a rectangular pedestal has been discovered (its side measuring 1.64 m), on which the fragmentary statue of Hadrian depicted in military attire is being restored.  This statue was discovered in the area of the Agora excavations and has been separately installed in another spot of the archaeological site (SW side).

On the inner side of the semicircle and on the extremities of its walls, niches decorated by statues of the members of the Imperial family are being restored.  Of the building’s superstructure very few remains: among its remnants are fragments of the semicircular in plan and cymae-decorated crowning, of the semicircular epistyle whose upper part is ornamented with acanthus, a small Corinthian capital, and lesser in size and importance pieces from the crowning of the epistyle and the cornice.  The semicircular epistyle rested on Corinthian columns on the inner part of the semicircle.

Formerly, certain sculptures were associated with the building, such as a statue in the so-called type of ‘Venus Genetrix’, holding an urn instead of fruits, which was unearthed in 1952 (Hesperia 22, 1953, p.53ff., table 19a-b), and fragments of an Amazon in the same style.

The date of the building's destruction has not been determined precisely as of yet.


Mc CAMP II, J., The Athenian Agora: Excavations in the Heart of the Classical City², Cambridge University Press 2001), p. 231.
THOMPSON, H.A., “Excavations in the Athenian Agora: 1953», Hesperia 24 (1955), pp. 57-69.
THOMPSON, H.A., WYCHERLEY, R., The Agora of Athens. The American Excavations in the Athenian Agora, vol. XIV, American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Princeton 1972, pp. 23, 78, 190, 202-203, 231.

The project "Virtual Reality Digital Collection 'The Ancient Agora of Athens'" has been co-funded in a percentage of 80% by the European Regional Development Fund and in a percentage of 20% by state funds in the framework of the Operational Programme "Information Society" of the 3rd Community Support Framework.

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