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The Villa Romana del Casale
Villa Romana del Casale
(Sicilian: Villa Rumana dû Casali) is a large and elaborate Roman villa
Roman villa
or palace located about 3 km from the town of Piazza Armerina, Sicily. Excavations have revealed one of the richest, largest and varied collections of Roman mosaics in the world,[1] for which the site has been designated as a UNESCO
UNESCO
World Heritage Site.[2] The villa and artwork contained within date to the early 4th century AD. The over 3000 sq. metres of mosaic and opus sectile pavement are also almost unique in their excellent state of preservation due to the landslide and floods which covered the remains. Although less well-known, an extraordinary collection of frescoes covered not only the interior rooms but also the exterior walls.

Contents

1 History 2 The latifundium and the villa

2.1 Monumental Entrance 2.2 The peristyle garden and the southern rooms 2.3 The Basilica 2.4 Triclinium
Triclinium
and elliptical peristyle

3 Mosaics

3.1 Bikini
Bikini
girls 3.2 The Little Hunt

4 Gallery 5 References 6 Sources 7 Further reading 8 External links

History[edit]

Plan of the villa

The visible remains of the villa were constructed in the first quarter of the 4th century AD on the remains of an older villa rustica, which are the pars dominica, or master’s residence, of a large latifundium or agricultural estate.[3] Three successive construction phases have been identified; the first phase involved the quadrangular peristyle and the facing rooms. The private bath complex was then added on a north-west axis. In a third phase the villa took on a public character: the baths were given a new entrance and a large latrine, and a grand monumental entrance was built, off-axis to the peristyle but aligned with the new baths entrance and in a formal arrangement with the elliptical (or ovoid) arcade and the grand tri-apsidal hall. This hall was used for entertainment and relaxation for special guests and replaced the two state halls of the peristyle (the “hall of the small hunt” and the “diaeta of Orpheus”). The basilica was expanded and decorated with beautiful and exotic marbles. The complex remained inhabited for at least 150 years and a village grew around it, named Platia (derived from the word palatium (palace).

Peristyle

In the 5th and 6th centuries, the villa was fortified for defensive purposes by thickening the perimeter walls and by closing of the arcades of the aqueduct to the baths. The villa was damaged and perhaps destroyed during the domination of the Vandals and the Visigoths. The outbuildings remained in use, at least in part, during the Byzantine and Arab
Arab
periods. The settlement was destroyed in 1160-1 during the reign of William I. The site was abandoned in the 12th century AD after a landslide covered the villa. Survivors moved to the current location of Piazza Armerina. The villa was almost entirely forgotten, although some of the tallest parts of the remains were always above ground. The area was cultivated for crops. Early in the 19th century, pieces of mosaics and some columns were found. The first official archaeological excavations were carried out later in that century.[4] The first professional excavations were made by Paolo Orsi
Paolo Orsi
in 1929, followed by the work of Giuseppe Cultrera in 1935-39. Major excavations took place in the period 1950-60 led by Gino Vinicio Gentili, after which a cover was built over the mosaics. In the 1970s Andrea Carandini
Andrea Carandini
carried out excavations at the site and work has continued to the present day by the University of Rome, La Sapienza. In 2004 the large mediaeval settlement of the 10-12th centuries was found. Since then further sumptuous rooms of the villa have also been revealed. The latifundium and the villa[edit]

Ambulatory of the Big Game Hunt

See also: Sicilia (Roman province) In late antiquity the Romans partitioned most of the Sicilian hinterland into huge agricultural estates called "latifundia". The villa's latifundium is cited in the Itinerarium Antonini
Itinerarium Antonini
and is known as the Filosofiana. The villa’s pars rustica, or agricultural section, has been discovered to the west of the entrance area, as shown by a room divided in three parts by pillars for storage of agricultural products. The size of the villa and the amount and quality of its artwork indicate that it was the pars dominica of such a latifundium. The owner's identity has long been discussed and many different hypotheses have been formulated. The owner was probably a member of senatorial class if not of the imperial family itself, i.e. the absolute upper class of the Roman Empire. The most probable owner is of the Constantinian period, Lucius Aradius Valerius Proculus, governor of Sicily
Sicily
between 327 and 331 and consul in 340. The games he organised in Rome
Rome
in 320 as praetor were so glorious that their fame lasted for a long time, and perhaps the depictions on some mosaics (the "Great Hunt" in corridor 25 and the "Games of the circus" in the baths) recall this event. The villa was so large as to include multiple reception and state rooms which reflects the need to satisfy a number of different functions and to include spaces for the management of the estate as well as of the villa. This transformed the villa into a city in miniature. The villa would likely have been the permanent or semi-permanent residence of the owner; it would have been where the owner, in his role as patron, received his local clients. The villa was a single-story building, centred on the peristyle, around which almost all the main public and private rooms were organised. The monumental entrance is via the atrium from the west. Thermal baths are located to the northwest; service rooms and probably guest rooms to the north; private apartments and a huge basilica to the east; and rooms of unknown purpose to the south. Somewhat detached, and appearing almost as an afterthought, is the separate area to the south containing the elliptical peristyle, service rooms, and a huge triclinium (formal dining room).

Palaestra - Two apses room

The overall plan of the villa was dictated by several factors: older constructions on the site, the slight slope on which it was built, and the path of the sun and prevailing winds. The higher ground to the east is occupied by the Great Basilica, the private apartments, and the Corridor of the Great Hunt; the middle ground by the Peristyle, guest rooms, the entrance area, the Elliptical Peristyle, and the triclinium; while the lower ground to the west is dedicated to the thermal baths. The whole complex is somewhat unusual, as it is organised along three major axes; the primary axis is the (slightly bent) line that passes from the atrium, tablinum, peristyle and the great basilica (coinciding with the path visitors would follow). The thermal baths and the elliptical peristyle with the triclinium are centred on separate axes. Little is known about the earlier villa, but it appears to have been a large country residence probably built around the beginning of the second century. Recent excavations have found a second bath complex close to the storerooms at the entrance dating to the late antique phase and showing rare wall mosaics belonging to a basin or a fountain. Monumental Entrance[edit]

Polygonal court mosaic

Access to the villa was through a three-arched gateway, decorated with fountains and military paintings, and closely resembling a triumphal arch. This gave onto the horseshoe courtyard surrounded by marble columns with Ionic capitals with a square fountain at the centre. On the west side of the courtyard was a latrine, and also separate access was given to the baths and to the rest of the villa. The peristyle garden and the southern rooms[edit]

Diaeta of Orpheus

The elegant peristyle garden is decorated with a three-basin fountain, in the centre of which decoration featuring fish swimming among the waves can be seen. Rooms 33 and 34 were dedicated to service functions and have mosaics with geometric motifs while room 34 also features a mosaic installed above the original floor showing female athletic competitions giving it the name “the room of the palestriti”. Also on the south side is the so-called diaeta of Orpheus, an apsidal room adorned with a remarkable mosaic featuring Orpheus playing the lyre beneath a tree and taming every kind of animal with his music. This room was probably used as a summer dining room or, considering its floor subject, for the enjoyment of music.

Basilica
Basilica
with marble panels

The Basilica[edit] This grand apsidal hall was an audience hall and the most formal room in the villa, accessed through a grand monumental entrance divided by two columns of pink Egyptian granite. An exceptionally elaborate polychrome opus sectile floor consisting of marbles coming from all over the Mediterranean lies at the entrance and is the richest decoration in the villa; it also covered the walls. This type of marble, rather than mosaic, constituted the material of greatest prestige in the Roman world. The excavations showed that the apse vault was decorated with glass mosaics.

Opus sectile
Opus sectile
floor - Basilica

Triclinium
Triclinium
and elliptical peristyle[edit] On the south side of the villa is an elliptical peristyle, the Xystus, with a semi-circular nymphaeum on the west side. In the open courtyard were fountains spurting from the mosaic pavement. The Xystus forms a spectacular introduction to the luxurious tri-apsidal triclinium, the great hall that opens to the east. This contains a magnificent set of mosaics dominated in the centre by the enemies encountered by Hercules
Hercules
during his twelve labours. In the north apse is his apotheosis crowned by Jupiter, while to the east are the Giants with serpentine limbs and in their death throes, having been struck by Hercules’ arrows. In the south apse is the myth of Lycurgus who tried to kill the nymph Ambrosia, but was encircled by grapevines and attacked by a crowd of Maenads. Mosaics[edit] Bikini
Bikini
girls[edit]

The "bikini girls" mosaic, showing girls playing sports. To the left, a girl in a toga offers a crown and victor's palm frond to "the winner"

In 1959-60, Gentili excavated a mosaic on the floor of the room dubbed the "Chamber of the Ten Maidens" (Sala delle Dieci Ragazze in Italian). Informally called "the bikini girls", the maidens appear in a mosaic artwork which scholars named Coronation of the Winner. The young women perform sports including weight-lifting, discus throwing, running and ball-games. A girl in a toga offers a crown and victor's palm frond to "the winner".[5] The Little Hunt[edit] Another well-preserved mosaic shows a hunt, with hunters using dogs and capturing a variety of game.

The Little Hunt mosaic

Gallery[edit]

Great Hunt mosaic

The "skier", a youth in motion (not skiing)

A big cat attacks a hunter on the Great Hunt mosaic

A ship on the Great Hunt mosaic

A hunter on the Great Hunt mosaic

Hunters on the Great Hunt mosaic

The Giants mosaic

Young boys hunting a rabbit, Child Hunters Mosaic

Polyphemus receiving a cup of wine from Ulysses. Anteroom (37) of the north apartment.

Bikini
Bikini
girls mosaic

Fresco - Semicircular atrium

Archaeology
Archaeology
portal

References[edit]

^ R. J. A. Wilson: Piazza Armerina. In: Akiyama, Terakazu (Ed.): The Dictionary of Art. Vol. 24: Pandolfini to Pitti. Oxford 1998, ISBN 0-19-517068-7. ^ "World heritage site". Retrieved 2008-12-15.  ^ http://www.villaromanadelcasale.it/en/la-villa-romana-del-casale2/la-villa/la-villa-tardoantica/ ^ http://www.villaromanadelcasale.it/en/la-villa-romana-del-casale2/la-villa/la-storia-degli-scavi-della-villa-tardoantica/ ^ Villa Romana del Casale, Val di Noto

Sources[edit]

Petra C. Baum-vom Felde, Die geometrischen Mosaiken der Villa bei Piazza Armerina, Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3-8300-0940-2 Brigit Carnabuci: Sizilien – Kunstreiseführer, DuMont Buchverlag, Köln 1998, ISBN 3-7701-4385-X Luciano Catullo and Gail Mitchell, 2000. The Ancient Roman Villa of Casale at Piazza Armerina: Past and Present R. J. A. Wilson: Piazza Armerina, Granada Verlag: London 1983, ISBN 0-246-11396-0. A. Carandini - A. Ricci - M. de Vos, Filosofiana, The villa of Piazza Armerina. The image of a Roman aristocrat at the time of Constantine, Palermo: 1982. S. Settis, "Per l'interpretazione di Piazza Armerina", in Mélanges de l'École française de Rome, Antiquité 87, 1975, 2, pp. 873–994.

Further reading[edit]

Weitzmann, Kurt, ed., Age of spirituality: late antique and early Christian art, third to seventh century, no. 105, 1979, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, ISBN 9780870991790; full text available online from The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Libraries

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Villa Romana del Casale.

Official website Lots of pictures from the villa

v t e

Archaeological sites in Sicily

Province of Agrigento

Heraclea Minoa Akragas

Valle dei Templi
Valle dei Templi
- Temple of Concordia - Temple of Heracles - Temple of Juno - Temple of Olympian Zeus

Province of Caltanissetta

Gela

Bosco Littorio Greek baths of Gela

Gibil Gabib Monte Bubbonia Polizzello archaeological site Sabucina Vassallaggi

Province of Catania

Aetna (city) Katáne Palike Sant'Ippolito (Caltagirone)

Province of Enna

Centuripe Morgantina Villa Romana del Casale

Province of Messina

Abacaenum Halaesa Naxos Ancient theatre of Taormina Tindari Villa Romana di Patti

Province of Palermo

Entella Grotta dell'Addaura Hippana Ietas Himera Pirama Soluntum

Province of Ragusa

Akrillai Hybla Heraea Kamarina Kaukana

Province of Syracuse

Akrai

Santoni

Casmenae Cava del Rivettazzo Colonne di San Basilio Helorus Netum Megara Hyblaea Syrakousai

Roman amphitheatre of Syracuse Altar of Hieron Ear of Dionysius Galermi Aqueduct Greek Theatre of Syracuse Grotta del Ninfeo Temple of Athena Temple of Apollo

Necropolis of Cassibile Necropolis of Pantalica Thapsos Villa Romana del Tellaro

Province of Trapani

Eryx/Erice Drepanum Halyciae Grotta del Genovese Monte Polizzo Motya Segesta Selinunte

Temple C Temple E Temple F Cave di Cusa

Roman furnaces in Alcamo

v t e

World Heritage Sites in Italy

Northwest

Crespi d'Adda Genoa Mantua
Mantua
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Castle of Moncalieri Castle of Racconigi Castle of Rivoli Castello del Valentino Royal Palace of Turin Palazzo Carignano Palazzo Madama, Turin Palace of Venaria Palazzina di caccia of Stupinigi Villa della Regina

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Roero
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Northeast

Aquileia The Dolomites Ferrara Modena Cathedral, Torre della Ghirlandina
Torre della Ghirlandina
and Piazza Grande, Modena Orto botanico di Padova Ravenna Venice Verona City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto

Central

Assisi Basilica
Basilica
of Saint Francis of Assisi Etruscan Necropolises of Cerveteri
Cerveteri
and Tarquinia Florence Hadrian's Villa Medici villas Piazza del Duomo, Pisa Pienza Rome2 San Gimignano Siena Urbino Val d'Orcia Villa d'Este

South

Alberobello Amalfi Coast Castel del Monte, Apulia Cilento
Cilento
and Vallo di Diano
Vallo di Diano
National Park, Paestum
Paestum
and Velia, Certosa di Padula Herculaneum Oplontis
Oplontis
and Villa Poppaea Naples Palace of Caserta, Aqueduct of Vanvitelli
Aqueduct of Vanvitelli
and San Leucio
San Leucio
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Islands

Aeolian Islands Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale Archaeological Area of Agrigento Barumini nuraghes Mount Etna Syracuse and Necropolis of Pantalica Val di Noto

Caltagirone Catania Militello in Val di Catania Modica Noto Palazzolo Acreide Ragusa Scicli

Villa Romana del Casale

Countrywide

Longobards in Italy, Places of Power (568–774 A.D.)

Brescia Cividale del Friuli Castelseprio Spoleto Temple of Clitumnus
Temple of Clitumnus
located at Campello sul Clitunno Santa Sofia located at Benevento Sanctuary of Monte Sant'Angelo
Sanctuary of Monte Sant'Angelo
located at Monte Sant'Angelo

Prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps3 Primeval Beech Forests of Europe4 Venetian Works of Defence between 15th and 17th centuries5

Bergamo Palmanova Peschiera del Garda

1 Shared with Switzerland 2 Shared with the Holy See 3 Shared with Austria, France, Germany, Slovenia, and Switzerland 4 Shared with Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain
Spain
and Ukraine 5 Shared with Croatia
Croatia
and Montenegro

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 243846

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