Nymphaeum of Kos - History and Facts | History Hit

Nymphaeum of Kos

Kos, Kos, Greece

The Nymphaeum of Kos was actually an Ancient Roman luxury public lavatory.

Antara Bate

24 Nov 2020
Image Credit: Wikimedia CC

About Nymphaeum of Kos

The Nymphaeum of Kos was an Ancient Roman building and its name is something of a misnomer.

Called the Nymphaeum because its opulence initially led archaeologists to think it was a sanctuary dedicated to the Nymphs, it has since been determined that this would have been a very luxurious set of lavatories.

Also on this site was the Ancient Roman gymnasium or ’Xysto’, the ruins of which are quite impressive and include several columns, and not far from the Odeon of Kos is also close by.

Nymphaeum of Kos history

In ancient Greece and Rome, Nymphaeums were monuments consecrated to the nymphs, particularly nymphs of springs. These monuments were originally natural grottoes, which tradition assigned as habitations to the local nymphs. They were sometimes so arranged as to furnish a supply of water, as at Pamphylian Side.

Eventually, artificial grottoes took the place of natural ones. Hence this ornate structure around a water supply was originally mistaken for a nymphaeum rather than what was later concluded to be, an ornate set of toilets.

The ‘Nymphaeum’ is part of a complex of the Hellenistic and Roman periods that includes the Acropoli, the Hippodrome and the Ancient Roman gymnasium.

The gymnasium is also known as the ‘Xysto’ which means scraped, making allusion to the athletes’ act of covering themselves with oils before the games and scraping it off once they finished. The style of the construction is Doric, as the restored seventeen columns of the initial 81 indicate. The columns on the west side had elaborated lion heads decorations. A huge roof used to lay on the top of this colonnade made of white marble, covering a large part of the gym.

Nymphaeum of Kos today

The Nymphaeum lies within the West Archeological site beside the gymnasium and the Roman baths. It is thought to have been destroyed in an earthquake in 469AD. Its entrance is located on the western side and an inner courtyard with a well in the centre is surrounded by pillars of white marble. The floor is made up of square of white marble and mosaics of geometric forms, as well as two squares depicting dolphins.

Getting to the Nymphaeum of Kos

Kos is one of the most popular destinations of the Dodecanese island complex. Kos International Airport “Hippocrates” receives domestic flights all year round, mainly from Athens. The airport is located 24 kilometres away from Kos Town, visitors can hire a car, take a taxi or ride the public bus to get into town. There are also ferries to Kos from Piraeus port in Athens.

The Nymphaeum of Kos is located within Kos Old Town, within easy walking distance of other ancient sites.

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