ancient Greek and Roman sanctuary consecrated to water nymphs. The name-though originally denoting a natural grotto with springs and streams, traditionally considered the habitat of nymphs-later referred to an artificial grotto or a building filled with plants and flowers, sculpture, fountains, and paintings. The nymphaeum served as a sanctuary, a reservoir, and an assembly chamber where weddings were held. The rotunda nymphaeum, common in the Roman period, was borrowed from such Hellenistic structures as the Great Nymphaeum of Ephesus. Nymphaea existed at Corinth, Antioch, and Constantinople (now Istanbul); the remains of about 20 have been found in Rome; and others exist as ruins in Asia Minor, Syria, and North Africa. The word nymphaeum was also used in ancient Rome to refer to a bordello and also to the fountain in the atrium of the Christian basilica
Learn more about nymphaeum with a free trial on Britannica.com.