Fountain, a spring of water. The term is commonly confined to springs, which, whether natural or artificial in themselves, have been in some manner ornamented through human art. The adornment of such objects of common use arose naturally with the growth of city life, and was further promoted by the reverence felt for springs, each of which was believed to be the haunt of some protecting deity. The ancient Greek and Roman fountains, described by Pausanias and Vitruvius respectively, were formed either by covering a spring over, to keep the water fresh and cool, or by placing a cistern at some distance from the ground and allowing a jet to play from it into an artificial basin. Those of the former kind, common in Greece, were decorated with a statue of the deity to whom the spring was sacred, or sculpture representing some mythological subject, either within or outside the stonework of the fountain. At Rome the water often flowed from the bronze statue of a Triton, Nereid, or other fabulous creature. Many fountains of this kind have been discovered at Pompeii. The public fountains furnished the ordinary water supply both among the Greeks and Romans, though the more wealthy inhabitants of
Rome had pipes leading to their own houses. In either case the water was conveyed to the city through the great aqueducts. Medieeval fountains originated in the same manner as those of the ancient world. Springs had held an important place in the element-worship of Celts and Teutons; when Christianity drove out Paganism they became fountains dedicated to the Madonna or one of the saints. These varied considerably in form, A common pattern was that of a square, round, and polygonal basin, in the centre of which was a column, whence spouts issued at intervals, so that several persons could fill their vessels at the same time. Some of these fountains are perfectly plain, while others are decorated with niches for figures of saints and other Gothic ornaments. As sanitary science progresses, and greater attention is paid to the purity of the water-supply, fountains cease to serve any but an orneemental purpose. Among the most famous ornamental fountains are those at Versailles and at the Crystal Palace, Sydenham. Fine effects are now produced by allowing the jets of a fountain to play on sheets of plate-glass, covering a chamber illuminated by the electric-light; pieces of glass of various tints are then introduced between the jets and the light beneath them, and these are changed at the same time that the height and combination of the jets is altered, so as to cause an infinite variety of movement and colour.