James Reuel Smith.

Springs and wells in Greek and Roman literature, their legends and locations online

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through my celebrating the oak that covers the hollow
rocks whence thy prattling rills descend with a bound."

The reference to flowers may indicate either that a
flower bed had been laid out about the Spring, or that,
following custom, there had been placed round the Spring
glasses crowned with flowers, perhaps intended to make
a draught more attractive to the divinity.

This Spring was six miles south of Venusia, a town in
the southern part of Italy, on the Appian Way, where
Horace was born on the eighth of December, 65 B.C. His
father, a freedman, owned a lean farm, in the neighbor-
hood, which he left to his son, who pleasantly tells how he



used to journey to it on a bob-tailed mule, until the land
was lost through confiscation.

The Spring appears under its old name in a chuich
record as late as the 12th century ; but it is now known as
Fontane Grande, which, as the name indicates, still
furnishes an abundant supply of water.

Northeast of Bandusia lay the Field of Blood, near
Cannae where Hannibal fought his great battle with the
Romans on the second of August, 216 B.C., when, placing
his troops with their backs to the Sirocco, he advanced to
victory behind a barrage of sand-laden wind that was as
discomforting to his foes as the mustard gas of modern
war fields.

Horace was indebted to Maecenas for another piece of
land, his Sabine Farm near Varia about 21 miles north-
west of Rome, on the banks of a little river which he calls
the Digentia. On this farm in a shady valley and near
his villa, there was a Spring of cold and clear water, and,
from what he says in his praise of it, one can imagine
that often after an evening's fun with flowing flagons of
Falernian, or a hard night's work over the construction of
a poem, for which words were sought, according to his
admitted custom, in generous and mellow wine, his
throbbing head had enjoyed the relief of its cooling
waters. He describes it in a letter to one of his friends as
a fountain deserving to give name to a river; cool and
limpid, and flowing salubrious to the infirm head. This
Spring is now known as Fonte Bello, and contributes a
considerable stream to Horace's river Digentia which, as
the Licenza, finds its way through the Anio into the

Horace; Odes; III. 13.

Epistles; I. 16. I. i-
Satires; I. 6.



There was a Spring in the harbor of Brundusium that
yielded water that never became putrid at sea. This was
a most excellent location for such a Spring, as the port,
now Brindisi, whose stag-head outline suggested its name,
was the Roman side of the short ferry over which nearly
all traffic to Greece and the East was conveyed.

Horace gives an enjoyable account of the inns and other
annoyances that travelers had to encounter on the road
from Rome to Brundusium, where his friend Virgil died
on his way back from Greece.

Phalanthus, too, died in Brundusium which erected
a monument to him and seems to have accorded him
more honor than his own subjects who deprived him of
his city, as he had deprived its founders (See No. 216).
Indeed, in spite of the healthy quality of the Harbor
Spring, Caesar complained of the unhealthiness of the
place and the constant sickness of the soldiers who were
encamped in its neighborhood.

Pliny; II. 106.
Horace; Satires; I. 5.



The Marcian Spring

Pliny wrote that ; — the most celebrated water through-
out the whole world, and the one to which Rome gives
the palm for coolness and salubrity, is that of the Marcian
Spring, accorded to Rome among the other bounties of
the gods : the name formerly given to the stream was the
11 Aufeian," the Spring itself being known as "Pitonia."

It rises at the extremity of the mountains of the Peligni,
passes through the tenitory of the Marsi and through
Lake Fucinus, and then, without deviating, makes
directly for Rome; shortly after this, it loses itself in
certain caverns, and only reappears in the territory of
Tibur, from which it is brought to the city by an arched
aqueduct nine miles in length.

Ancus Marcius, one of the Roman kings, was the first
who thought of introducing this water into the city. At a
later period the aqueduct was built by Quintus Marcius
Rex, the praetor, and remodeled more recently by the
praetor M. Agrippa.

Ancus Marcius was the fourth king of Rome, and his
reign of some twenty-four years closed in 614 B.C.; ob-
jection has therefore been taken to Pliny's coupling so
ancient a monarch with the Aqua Marcia aqueduct; but,
as Ancus Marcius founded towns, constructed fortresses
and bridges, and built a prison, it is not improbable that
he "first thought of" leading the Marcian Spring to
Rome, and that from him the Spiing derived its name,



which appropriately descended to the aqueduct when it
was built some centuries later by the prastor Q. Marcius
Rex, as Pliny distinctly states.

Ovid's native and much praised country, that of the
Peligni just north of the boundary line of Latium, and the
birthplace of the Spring, is called the coldest in Italy,
its mountains reach the greatest height of all the Apen-
nines, over 9,000 feet, and they feed their numerous
Springs with constant snows. The Marcian water at
Rome is notable for its coldness, much of its initial tem-
perature being no doubt preserved by the shading it
receives from two aqueduct streams, the Julia's and the
Tepula's, that flow over it as it enters the city.

Pliny; XXXI. 24. XXXVI. 24.
Ovid; Fasti; IV. In 685.


Ovid's Spring

Ovid, who lived some two miles from Sulmo, where he
was born on the 20th of March in the year 43 B.C., pleas-
antly describes the neighborhood as a little spot but
salubrious with flowing streams that traverse the fields,
and trickle among the short blades of the grassy turf that
covers the moistened ground; and quite probably he drew
the picture of the Spring on his own estate when telling
of the one shaded by ancient trees, under which he was at
the moment walking while casting about in his mind for a
subject for his next poem. This was, he says, where there
stands an ancient grove, and one uncut for many years;
'tis worthy of belief that a deity inhabits the spot. In
the midst there is a holy Spring and a grotto arched with
pumice; and on every side the birds pour forth their sweet


It was during his meditation here that Erato the Muse
of Elegy, with wieathed and perfumed hair appeared, to
him, followed immediately afterwards by Calliope the
Muse of Ruthless Tragedy, who strode up with seo.vling
brow, and began at once to object to his light composi
tions and his use of elegiac verse to the exclusion of her
more ponderous form; and she demanded that he devote
himself to Roman tragedy, and write in heroic verse.

The Muse of Elegy, with a merry twinkle in her eyes,
intenupts to point out that Tragedy has all the while
been inveighing against Ovid's light veise in that very
verse itself ! And before Tragedy recovers from her con-
fusion at having been caught in making such a laughable
slip, the poet succeeds in pacifying both the Muses by
promising to make use of the versification of each of his

Possibly this Spring was the Fountain of Love at the
foot of the Maronian Hill near Sulmona, 90 miles from
Rome, where some ruins are pointed out as those of
Ovid's house

Cvid; Amours; 11 . Elegy I. II. 16.



The waters of Albula sprang from numerous fountains.
They were cold, and a cure for various diseases. They
were used both internally and externally, and were of
the same character as the neighboring Springs of Labanae
near Eretum on the Via Nomentana.

The Albulas Aquae or Solfatara, a sulphur lake in La-
tium near Tibur (Tivoli), was several miles from the
Sabine Springs of Albula with which they seem to have
been confounded by one of Strabo's translators; Albula,
although the same distance of 18 miles from Rome was
more north of it than Tibur ; it was near the Tiber and on
the Via Salabria where it joined the Via Nomentana.

The Eretum of the Springs' neighborhood was the
place where Hannibal in his retreat from Rome turned
off to go to the Spring of Feronia and pillage its temple.
Eretum, being practically on the boundary line where
Latium, Etruria and the Sabine territory came together,
was often overrun by contending troops, and there is
absolutely nothing left of it to mark its site except its
sulphureous Springs.

Strabo; V. 3- §n.



In the valley of Reate, some 48 miles from Rome,
there was a Spring called Neminia which rose up some-



times in one place and sometimes in another, and in that
way indicated a change in the produce of the earth.

This peculiar statement of Pliny's may have some
reference to the Spring called the Fonte Velino rising in
Falacrinum, where a church now bears the name of Sta.
Maria di Fonte Velino. The stream from that fountain
made such large deposits of travertine that its course was
frequently shifted, thereby rendering cultivated lands
useless through inundations.

Pliny; II. 106.


The cold waters of the Springs at Cotyliae were used
for the cure of various maladies, and were prescribed for
patients both as draughts and as baths.

Cotyliae was in the country of the Sabines which was a
narrow strip of territory with a length of 125 miles that
extended, from the River Tiber and the town of Nomen-
tum, north and east to the district of the Vestini. It
appears to have escaped notice by anyone in recent times,
and the original reference to it gives no indication of its
precise location in the Sabines' small domain.

Strabo; V. 3. § 1.


Pliny's Tuscan Fountains

The Tuscan villa of Pliny the Younger, was one of his
summer residences, about 150 miles from Rome, by the
road. It lay under the Apennines in an amphitheater
ringed with hills, and well nourished with never failing
streams that found their way into the Tiber, which ran
through the middle of the plain.

The house, which faced the south, had a broad and
long portico containing a number of bedrooms and an
old-fashioned hall. In front there was a terrace, bounded
with an edging of box cut in the shape of animals.

At the head of the portico, a dining room jutted out
and gave views on three sides, from which could be seen
not only the beauties of the surrounding country but also
a part of the villa itself.

Opposite the middle of the portico stood a small
summer-house shaded by four plane trees, among which
was a marble fountain whose waters sprinkled the roots
of the trees and the grass about them. In this small
house there was an interior bedroom, from which all
light, noise and sound was excluded, and a dining room
facing a small court.

A second sleeping room, facing the plane trees and
shaded by one of them, contained a fountain with a basin
around it, into which the water flowed with a most agree-
able and lulling sound.



Another, a spacious sleeping chamber, faced a fish
pond, which, lying just beneath its windows, was pleasing
both to the eye and to the ear, as water falling into it
from a considerable height glistened white as it was
caught in the marble basin.

There was a large, shaded, cold swimming bath; and
one of warm water; and a third which the sun shone on
and made of medium temperature.

In the spacious grounds there were flower gardens and
fruit trees and box shrubs, the latter cut in the shape of
letters that formed Pliny's name and that of his gardener.
At the end of one of the walks, in a secluded place, there
was a semicircular marble dining couch built around a
graceful marble basin. It was canopied with shady vines
and supported by small pillars of Carystian marble.
From small pipes running through the couch, jets of
water flowed into the basin, seemingly pressed out by the
weight of the diners. The heavier dishes for the repasts
were placed on the margin of the basin, while the lighter
dishes, in the forms of boats and birds, floated on the
surface of the water in revolutions that brought them
successively within reach of the diners as they were

A fountain facing the feasters threw into the air a
stream that flared outwards and dropped with musical
splashings into a basin of its own. A jet from another
fountain a little distance away fell noiselessly and dis-
appeared in the ground.

Set along another path were resting chairs of maible,
with a fountain at each chair, and the streams from them
ran murmuring through the grounds in numerous
channels, so directed as to furnish water wherever it was
needed for the growing vegetation.

The Tuscan villa was near the village of Tifernum in


Umbria, and its approximate site is infeired to be about
ten miles from, and northwest of the present Citta di

Pliny (Younger) Letters; V. 6. X. 9.


Aquje Tauri

The Springs called Aquae Tauri were discovered by a
bull who was duly honored in naming them when they
were found to possess qualities that made them favorites
with those for whom warm baths were prescribed. Even
when as a bathing resort their locality was called Aquae
Thermae, the disci iminating bull was pleasantly re-
membered by the place's patrons who preferred the old
to the new designation.

They were three miles from Civita Vecchia, and are
now named Bagni di Ferrata.

Pliny; N. Hist. III. 8.



Frogs were produced in the warm Springs of Pisa,
named after the Spring in Elis.

These Springs now called the Bagni di S. Giuliano are

about four miles from Pisa at the foot of a detached group
of the Apennines.

The town was said to have been founded by people who
migrated from the Spring of Pisa in Grecian Elis.

The old city was at the junction of the Arnus and Auser
rivers and was less than three miles from the sea, but the
present town, though on the site of the old one, is more
than six miles from the ocean; the busy rivers have de-


posited the intervening land, and have also built up a
wall between themselves so that they no longer join but
run to the sea through separate channels.

Pisa is known of more generally than other minor
Italian towns because of its leaning tower, a seven-story
round marble belfry that slants fourteen feet from a
straight line in its height of sixty yards.

The city has a curious cemetery some of the graves in
which aie made of imported earth, soil from Jerusalem
having been procured as far back as 1228 a.d.

The Springs, which are of a mineral character, are now
more noted for relieving rheumatism and other ailments
than for the production of frogs.

Pliny; II. 106.



Fish were produced in the warm Springs of Vetulonia,
which were not far from the sea.

The Romans copied from the Vetulonians their insignia
of magistracy, the fasces, the lictors, the toga prsetexta,
and others; but the city was destroyed, and was ignored
by history for so many ages that its location was long
sought for in vain. Continued search, however, resulted
in its discovery in 1842 near the village of Magliano ten
miles north of Orbetello, 250 yards from the sea coast,
and with its Springs still warm.

Pliny; II. 106.



The Hot Springs of Caeretana were a short distance
from the city of Caere, and they were resorted to by so


many people in search of health that a lusty settlement
grew up around them which in time became larger than
the city, and supplanted it.

At Caere there was an oracle where omens were secured
by consulting pieces of wood bearing antique characters,
called Sortes or Lots, and the Spring may at one time
have had a part in the ceremonies.

The first town was of great antiquity, having been
founded by Pelasgians, and among inscriptions that have
been discovered in the ruins are some that are supposed
to be in the forgotten language of that puzzling people,
whose origin remains as much a mystery as it was to the
ancients themselves.

The successors of the Pelasgians called the settlement
Agylla, and its subsequent name Caere was the result of
an unusual incident, of warfare, that occurred when a
marauding paity of Tyrrhenians marched up to the walls
in the early part of a day, and demanded the name of the
town. The solitary sentinel to whom the demand was
made, ignoring the question, saluted and politely bade the
party good morning. Regarding the unusual salutation
to a hostile force as an auspicious omen, the assaulters,
after capturing the town, adopted the sentinel's word for
good morning as the name of their new possession.

When the last of the Roman kings, Tarquin, was
expelled from the capital city in 510 B.C. he sought refuge
in Caere; and when, July, 390 B.C., the Gauls were about
to capture Rome, the most precious relics of the capital,
together with the Vestals and their fire, were sent to Caere
for preservation.

The city's ruins are twenty-seven miles from Rome,
and the Springs are now called Bagni di Sasso.

Strabo; V. 2. § 3.

Livy; XXI. 62. XXII. 1.



This fountain of Feronia was at the foot of Mt. Soracte,
now Mt. S. Oreste, where there was a temple dedicated
to the Sabine goddess Feronia, and where from the times
of Tullus Hostilius, who was the third king of Rome
between 670 and 638 B.C., she had been held in reverence.

Tullus Hostilius instituted new religious offices, one of
which was an annual meeting held around the temple; a
meeting of a double nature that appealed both to traders
and shoppers, and to pious devotees, by coupling to-
gether the functions of a campmeeting and a county fair ;
and one of the numerous wars of the king was started on
the ground that the Sabines had wronged the Roman
merchants at the temple of Feronia.

In the temple a remarkable ceremony was performed
during which those who were possessed by the divinity,
her priests and her votaries, passed barefooted over a
large bed of burning coals and hot ashes without receiving
any hurt.

This performance with fire, at the foot of Mt. Soracte,
seems to have been a modification and then a transfer-
ence of other fire rites that were in very ancient times
conducted at the summit of the half mile high mountain.
Those rites weie said to have been performed for Apollo,
the god of the sun, and even as late as the beginning of
the Christian Era a few families of the Hirpi were ex-
empted by the senate from military service and other
public duties, because they conducted an annual sacrifice
to Apollo on Mt. Soracte, duiing which they walked over
a burning pile of wood without being scorched.

It is perhaps not improbable that, if the remote origin
of those rites could be traced back, they would be found
41 641


to antedat time when Apollo became known to the

Romans, arm to have been instituted by fire worshippers
from the east who traveled through Thrace and down into
the Italian peninsula to become the ancestors of the pre-
Trojan inhabitants, among whom the Etrurians as the
Etruscans of Tuscany are the most interesting of all the
Roman tribes whose problem of origin is still unsolved.

The temple, with its side show of fire walking, and with
the concessions paid by the traffickers, amassed great
wealth, some of it being in the form of masses of brass
that indicate contributions of a very early date. The
value of the temple's accumulations was such that Hanni-
bal was impelled to turn aside and stop in his retreat from
Rome in 21 1 B.C., in order to plunder the sanctuary, from
which he obtained a large quantity of the precious metals,
and other material valuable as liquid assets.

The fountain, which is now called Felonica, at the foot
of Mt. S. Oreste is supposed to mark the site of the temple
that Hannibal plundered.

Another fountain on Mt. Soracte was noticed by Varro.
It was a fountain that seemed to feel, and even express

It lay peacefully, in a basin that was twelve feet in
circumference, until the sun began to rise, when the
waters, as if conscious of its returning presence, became
violently agitated, leaping and tossing as though they
were under the influence of some delirious joy, or were
striving to mount aloft and greet the orb of day at closer

This seeming sympathy of the Spring with the sun may
have aroused the wonder and interest of the ancient fire-
worshippers, and impelled them to regard the mountain
with reverence, and consecrate it to the purposes of their
long continued religious rites in the neighborhood.


There is no record of the effect these em ! rial waters
had on human beings, but it was said that biids, even
though they took only a single sip, fell dead at the foun-
tain's brink.

There was also, in Latium, another fountain called

Strabo; V. 2. § 9.

Pliny; VII. 2. XXXI. 19.


AQU/E Apollinares

Conjectures are not in accord as to which of several
Etrurian Springs represent what Martial called "those
of Apollo at Cuma."

According to one, they were the Springs described as
twelve miles from Tarquinii and now called Bagni di
Stigliano; according to another, they are the Springs of
Caeretana; and a third writer fancies that they were the
Aquae Auraliae of the Antonine Itinerary and are those
that were found in 1852 under a vault of Etruscan work-
manship near Lake Bracciano, on property then owned
by the Odescalchi family near the little settlement of

From the basin of the latter Springs it is stated that a
ton of coins of different metals was retrieved, the position
of the various layers indicating the dates of deposit,
which went back to the earliest times of money, and was
underlaid with votive offerings of flint implements. Such
offerings, individually, were called Stips, meaning gift,
to which the modern Tips bears so close a resemblance
that it might perhaps lay claim to lineal descent.

These waters possessed medicinal qualities, and the
neighborhood is supposed to have been a bathing and


health resort before even Rome itself was established, and
to have been patronized down to the time of Trajan,
whose effigy was impressed on some of the coins contained
in the basin.

Martial; VI. 42.

Aqvje Passeris

The Aquae Passeris, or Aquae Passerianae as it was
designated in an inscription, was the warm Spring that
appears in Martial's poetry as a praiseworthy fountain
that he calls "the fervid Passer."

It is supposed to have been at the place now named
Bacucco, some five miles north of Viterbo, whose neigh-
borhood produces a number of thermal Springs.

Viterbo, 42 miles N. N. W. of Rome, has numerous
elegant fountains and is the marble-paved city that was
the scene of the assassination of Prince Henry of England,
in the Xllth century.

Martial; VI. 42.

Clusian Springs

The Clusian Springs in Etruria were near the city of
Clusium, and were visited by such hardy invalids as had
sufficient courage to expose themselves to their curative
cold waters, as Hoi ace wrote to his friend Vala when
requesting information about milder places in which to

The city was a hundred miles from Rome, in the valley
of the River Clanis, and the sulphureous waters of the


Springs formed a small lake now called Lago di Chiusi.

The settlement antedated Rome by an unknown num-
ber of centuries, for, even in the early days of ^Eneas,
Clusium and its neighboring town of Cosa furnished a
thousand fighting men to oppose King Turnus. Virgil's
list of the forces engaged on that occasion, and the names
of the populous places from which they were drawn, can-
not be read without a saddening regret for the loss of the
histories of millions of people who nourished in Etruria
and the territories around it — long before the founding of
Rome, whose own inception stretches far enough back to
be connected with many more or less mythful relations.

A remarkable structure, 300 feet square and 350 feet
high, was said to have been built over a labyrinth as the
tomb of Lars Porsenna, one of the later kings of Clusium;
this was the king whose army, when sent against Rome in
its early days, was held back single handed by Horatius
Codes while his comrades were making a bridge im-
passable; an act that preserved the fame of Horatius,
although it failed to preserve Rome against Porsenna' s

Horace; Epistles; I. 15.
iEneid; X. In 167.



Online LibraryJames Reuel SmithSprings and wells in Greek and Roman literature, their legends and locations → online text (page 40 of 46)