The figures carved in the local stone tell the classical myths of three nymphs transformed by the Gods piety into perennial fountains. The first myth plays the theme of zelotipy (extreme jealousy), with Dirce, married to Lico, King of Crete, sacrificed to the ferocity of an indomitable bull, by Anfione and Zeto’s jealousy and revenge, who were furious for her offenses to their mother Antiope’s honour. In this myth there is, in a cryptic and erudite language, the warning to escape the feeling of jealousy and the fury of revenge.
At the opposite side there is the Ovidian myth of Biblide, who was burning with unnatural love for her brother Cauno, depicted in the horrified pose of escaping his adolescent sister’s insane desires. Here too we can read a clear warning against incest and an invitation to the
chastity of costumes and to temper passions in conjugal love, which is well expressed in the central area of the fountain, where goddess Venus is encircling two lovers’ naked bodies with a lace, while winged Cupid is shooting the fatal love dart. It’s the timeless myth of Salmace, the nymph loved by Hermaphroditus who, as made clear in Ausonius’s Latin couplet, “for desiring his man so much, saw two bodies forming one”, happy the woman but even luckier the man who joined in one body with the beloved girl.
Clearly visible here is the underlined sacrality of marriage, blessed by the Gods and propitiated by love, wherein solely, the monument warns, the consumption of a sexual intercourse is allowed.
Original text – Elio Pindinelli
English translation by Rocco Merenda