The Role of Fountains in Expressing Social Status: Late Antique Fountains in Courtyard House Architecture of Asia Minor


OLBA, pp.113-141, 2024 (AHCI) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Publication Date: 2024
  • Journal Name: OLBA
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Academic Search Premier
  • Page Numbers: pp.113-141
  • Anadolu University Affiliated: Yes


In Late Antiquity, aristocrats and city administrators continued the tradition of using impressive architectural and decorative elements in their urban residences, reminiscent of the practices in the Roman Empire. During this period, especially the most accessible and visible parts of houses were adorned in a remarkable manner to showcase the sophisticated tastes, social status, and wealth of the homeowners to their visitors. For this purpose, a particular architectural design and ornamentation was preferred because this urban elite group, in addition to hosting people under their patronage in extravagant residences, also took advantage of the domestic environment to strengthen relationships with peers of similar status. The courtyard, an indispensable feature of these residences, served particularly as one of the primary areas for welcoming visitors, thus leading to its meticulous design. This space, which was vital for shaping the initial impression of both the house and its owner, could feature fountains with decorative elements in its most visible area. Similar to the bathrooms and toilets within the house, these fountains were elements that elevated the overall standard of residences. Closely connected to channels and clean waterways, these fountains not only served practical functions but were also used to display the homeowner's high status by enhancing the quality and value of the houses.This article primarily focuses on examining the reflections of social changes in residential structures, especially residential fountains, due to the evolving structure of Late Antiquity. It discusses the fundamental characteristics of "fountains positioned in courtyards" as a type of fountain through a group of luxury residences from Late Antiquity in the regions of Asia Minor and the Mediterranean. Examining a sample of urban houses from Sardis, Aphrodisias, Xanthus, Arycanda, Side, Perge, Sagalassos, and Laodicea, and cities outside Asia Minor, this article emphasises the architectural features, functions, and significance for homeowners of the fountains dating from the 4th to 6th centuries AD located in the peristyles and open courtyards of these houses. The brief descriptions provided in the relevant section about the sampled fountains offer a contextual and spatial understanding of the fountains under consideration. Additionally, the objective is to elucidate how these fountains turned into an essential element of the luxurious homes of the elite through their architectural styles and decorative designs, and how homeowners used these fountains as instruments to display their social statuses.