The Meta Sudans in a drawing of the Arch of Constantine by Piranesi

The Meta Sudans is (by now) familiar to us in old photographs, as a Roman fountain extant as merely a brick stump outside the Arch of Constantine in Rome, which was demolished by Mussolini in the 1930’s.  But until the 19th century it was twice the height.  Ancient pictures on coins show a slender, pointed item.

Here is a drawing by Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 1760, of the Arch of Constantine, which I saw on Twitter here.  It is notable because we can see the Meta Sudans through one of the arches.

G.B.Piranesi, Arch of Constantine with Meta Sudans
G.B.Piranesi, Arch of Constantine with Meta Sudans

This seems to be an engraving called “Veduta dell’Arco di Costantino Magno”.  I learn from the British Museum site that it comes from a volume called “Le Antichità Romane”,[1] where it is Plate XXXVI, figure II of the first volume. It is a 1756 etching, apparently.


Here is another, also by Piranesi, from here:

Piranesi, 1760. Arch of Constantine, Colosseum, and Meta Sudans
Piranesi, 1760. Arch of Constantine, Colosseum, and Meta Sudans

This etching is labelled “Veduta dell’Arco di Constantino e dell’Anfiteatro detto il Colosseo”.  Sadly it is not clear to me whether this is part of a series, or how it should be referenced.  The Library of Congress make a high resolution image available here.

The British Museum site also has another etching and aquatint, “Veduta del Monte Palatino, dell’Arco di Costantino, e di Tito, dei Tempi di Venere e Roma e parte del Colosseo”.  This also shows the double-height Meta Sudans, looking rather unfortunately shaped (which may explain why its upper storey was removed).


Let’s have a detail of the Meta Sudans:


This was made between 1800-1820.  The more info we can find from before the partial demolition of the 19th century, the better.

  1. [1]Giambatissta Piranesi,  Le antichità romane opera di Giambatista Piranesi architetto veneziano divisa in quattro tomi, Nella stamperia di Angelo Rotilj, 1756.  4 vols.  Full details here.  Volume 1 at least is at Arachne here, although not for download.

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