Fountain of Herodes Atticus

The water-supply for the thousands of spectators during the dry summer was a serious problem at Olympia. For a long time the supply of water was limited to wells and some pipes, which brought water to the precinct from sources further away . Only in AD 153, Herodes Atticus, an Athenian millionaire and sponsor of culture, built a large aquaduct. Water from the north-eastern hills was brought to the sanctuary, where it was distributed by many branches.

One of these branches ended in a monumental fountain, also built by Herodes, at the edge of the sacred area, between the temple of Hera and the treasuries. The building, erected around a semi-circular water-basin, was 32 m long and at least 12 m high. The water, supplied from the mountains by the aquaduct, came down in two cascades. The construction was made of brick, covered with multi-coloured marble plates, in the typical baroque style of the imperial age, with two floors with niches and architectural decorations. An inscription shows that the fountain was dedicated to Zeus by Herodes' wife Regilla, to commemorate her service as priestess of Demeter.

P017In the niches were placed 24 statues, those on the second floor representing Herodes and his family, those on the first floor representing the emperors Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius and their family. The imperial statues are dedicated by Herodes, the statues of Herodes' family by the city of Elis. Parts of the inscriptions on the statue bases were preserved as floor slabs in a Byzantine church, but the statues and the marble covering are largely lost.

© KU Leuven, 2012