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Centralized around a large, ornate water fountain the great Nymphaeum was a public sanctuary built by early Romans in honor of pagan spirits called Nymphs. A common feature of many Roman cities, Nymphaeums, in addition to serving as small reservoirs and gardens, were frequently used by citizens for all manner of public functions such as weddings, parties, and general assemblies.
In later centuries the term "nymphaeum" was also used to denote brothels, or bordellos - an unfortunate semantic evolution that likely resulted in some unfortunate misunderstandings during Constantinople's summer months.