Friday 3 March 2017

Coliseum Meta Sudante [Episode #216]

The Meta Sudans was a large monumental conical fountain in ancient Rome that was built some time between 89 and 96ce, a few years after the completion of the nearby Colosseum under the Flavian emperors. Built between the Colosseum and the Temple of Venus and Roma, it was later close to the Arch of Constantine, at the juncture of four regions of ancient Rome.

A meta was a tall conical object in a Roman circus that stood at either end of the central spina, around which racing chariots would turn. The Meta Sudans had the same shape, and also functioned as a similar kind of turning point. In that it marked the spot where a Roman triumphal procession would turn left from the via Triumphalis along the east side of the Palatine onto the via Sacra and into the Forum Romanum itself.

Built from a brick and concrete core faced with marble, the Meta Sudans seems to have "sweated" water rather than jetting it out the top, as in Latin "sudan" means “sweating”. This may mean that the fountain oozed water out the top, or perhaps that water came from holes in its side.

The fountain was obviously damaged in the Middle Ages, appearing as ruins in early views of the Colosseum.

Photos from the end of the 19th century also show a conical heap of bricks next to the Arch of Constantine.

The ruins of Meta Sudans survived until the 20th century when Benito Mussolini had its remains demolished and paved over in 1936 to make room for the new traffic circle around the Colosseum with a plaque commemorating the fountain set in the road.

Although the above-ground structure is now gone, its foundations were later re-excavated, revealing the extensive substructure. After another excavation in 1997-98 the traffic circle was closed and the area became a pedestrian district.

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