The expressive face of Oceanus once served as a gargoyle to decorate the outlet of a Roman fountain. In its workmanship the piece is one of the most magnificent metal fountain masks preserved from the Roman period. The deity of the oceans and rivers appears as a majestic and awe-inspiring creature with a face covered by fish scales and with curly hair and beard. All kinds of sea creatures romp about in his tresses. The object was discovered at a Roman estate in the hinterland of the Rhaetian Limes. It illustrates the high standard of living on such estates, even those on the outermost periphery of the Roman Empire. At the time of the greatest heyday during the first third of the third century, almost all estates already had their own bathhouses. Contrary to customary practice in pre-Roman and post-Roman times, non-potable water was not drawn from rivers and streams. Drinking and bathing water was either pumped up from deep wells or, better still, brought in by water pipes from especially channelled springs to meet the high demands for water quality. From a technical point of view, the latter was even a prerequisite for the operation of fountains with running water which only functioned in conjunction with a pressurised water pipe. The fact that despite human engineering achievements, the refreshing water was understood as a gift from the divine force of nature, is expressed in depictions such as the Schambach fountain mask.
Archäologische Staatssammlung München