In antiquity the Olympian gods were worshipped according to defined mythological traditions. For example, the sea-god Neptune commanded the realms of water by creating springs, causing earthquakes and raising storms. Neptune’s importance was recognised in Italy as early as 450 BC. at Poseidonia now called Paestum, in Latium. Here, a Greek temple was dedicated to Poseidon/Neptune and a Latin colony settled in 273 AD. Coins found at Paestum show Neptune’s image.
Myths involving Neptune provided appropriate images for fountain design, especially the two great mythological works of the first century AD, Metamorphoses by Ovid and the Aeneid by Virgil. During the Renaissance reference books described and illustrated gods, recognisable by their attributes. For example Neptune had a quadriga pulled by hippocamps, a trident, and was usually attended by Nereids, Tritons and dolphins. Mythology 'explained' natural phenomena and the personalities of the gods, both of which could be used as metaphors for patrons by fountain designers. Artists could refer to the ancient texts and reference books for details about the appearance of the pagan gods.