Villa Romana del Casale
The Villa Romana del Casale in Piazza Armerina is a Roman villa that houses enchanting mosaics, considered the most beautiful and best preserved of their kind. It was therefore recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Villa was the center of an important large estate, with administrative, residential and representative functions. Its more than 3000 square meters of mosaic respond to a precise program both of representation and indicative of the culture of the landlord. There were areas for official reception, unofficial banquet halls, halls of worship, housing units with connected service rooms and passage areas. The identification of the owner of the Villa is not, to date, certain; according to the most recent studies, it is attributed to a high exponent of the Roman senatorial aristocracy, perhaps a Praefectus Urbi, a person in charge of public order in the city of Rome.
Among the remains of the villa is they identify four separate nuclei: the monumental entrance with three arches with a horseshoe-shaped courtyard; the central body of the villa, organized around a quadrangular peristyle courtyard, with a garden with a mixtilinear basin in the center; a large space preceded by an ovoid peristyle surrounded in turn by another group of rooms; a thermal complex with access from the north-western corner of the quadrangular peristyle.
The monumental entrance with three arches and a horseshoe-shaped courtyard formed the access to the residence, from here it was possible to access the spa complex and the residential complex. The horseshoe-shaped courtyard is surrounded by marble columns with Ionic capitals, in the center are the remains of a square fountain. A fragment of two-tone mosaic with plant motifs and scales is preserved along the north side of the courtyard of the original flooring. From the entrance a few steps lead to the vestibule which has a floor with geometric motifs in the center of which there is a partially preserved scene of adventus, “Ceremonial entrance”, arranged on two registers: in the upper register a man with a crown of leaves on his head and a candelabra in his right hand, flanked by two young people with twigs in their hands, seems to be waiting for the arrival of an important guest; in the lower register some young men recite or sing with diptychs open in their hands. It is believed that it can be a solemn welcome for the owner's entry into his home.
br> The vestibule leads to the peristyle with a mosaic with laurel wreaths and heads of animals of many different species such as felines, antelopes, bulls, wild goats, horses, onagers, deer, rams, an elephant and an ostrich. The orientation of the heads changes in two points with the function of emphasizing the two itineraries that can be followed inside the building: the private one, to the left of the entrance, which led to the rooms on the northern side, and the public one, towards the apsidal hall on the east side is the nucleus of the triclinium with an ovoid peristyle. At the center of the peristyle there was a large fountain.
Along the northern side of the peristyle there are rooms of various uses: the three initial rooms, service rooms in function of the kitchen, and two others at the back, serving the nearby master apartment, have mosaic floors with geometric motifs. The next two rooms are probably bedrooms, preceded by anterooms and with walls decorated with paintings. In one of the rooms on the mosaic floor six pairs of characters are depicted, arranged on two registers, probably representing country dances in the spring festivals in honor of Ceres. The second bedroom features a floor mosaic with Eroti fishermen, with rich decoration on the boats and in the clothes. The next room that opens on the northern side of the peristyle, perhaps a winter dining room, larger than the others and with the entrance preceded by two columns, preserves the floor mosaic of the little hunt. Twelve scenes are depicted arranged on four registers. The trapezoidal space connecting the peristyle and the baths has a mosaic of a lady with a maid.
Along the southern side of the peristyle there are two service areas, originally paved with geometric motifs. In a later reconstruction, the innermost room was decorated with a mosaic known as that of the Girls in Bikini, in which ten girls engaged in exercises are arranged on two registers athletic. A double room, perhaps a winter cubicle, is decorated with a mosaic depicting a thymus.
From the far eastern side of the peristyle you enter the raised corridor of the Great Hunt with apsidal ends. On this corridor, lement of connection and separation between the public and private part, the large representative apsidal hall and the master apartments opened. The subject of the floor mosaic represents a great capture, not hunting, of wild beasts for the games of the amphitheater in Rome: in fact, no animals are killed and the hunters use their weapons only to defend themselves. Seven scenes have been identified, performed by two distinct groups of mosaicists: the first three scenes, which stand out for the plastic and naturalistic rendering of the bodies of the beasts, are made with small square tiles (5– 6 mm), very regular in shape, a few stone chips are used, and there are about twenty-five different colors. The remaining scenes, in the southern half of the corridor, with schematic and volume-less figures, are made with slightly larger tesserae, more frequent stone chips and less precision in the details; there are fifteen colors. In the apses at the north and south ends of the corridor we have two female figures: Africa and Egypt or, according to others, Asia or India. The whole therefore represents a sort of compendium on how to capture every single beast, set in two different continents.
The large representative apsed hall and the main apartments opened onto the corridor of the Great Hunt:
The large apsidal reception room, raised with four steps, opens up, with an entrance divided by two columns which signals its importance. The public function of the hall, where the owner probably granted audiences and received visitors, is also made evident by the original flooring in precious opus sectile in slabs of colored marble and porphyry.
There were two main apartments: the one further north, closer to the service rooms and smaller in size, was probably reserved for the family and the other, more important and with richer and more articulated mosaic decoration, was probably that of the owner.
The less important apartment consisted of three rooms: a first room that serves as an antechamber with floor decorated with the episode of Ulysses who overcomes Polyphemus by means of cunning, handing him the kantharos of wine; The room with wall paintings by Eroti and on the floor a geometric mosaic in which rounds with the seasons and fruit baskets are inserted, while in the apse there is a scale motif with very refined naturalistic elements; A second cubicle with alcove with floor with geometric carpet with polygonal patterns, stylized stars and seasons in the circles, surrounding a medallion with a couple of lovers.
The main apartment opened onto the corridor of the Grande Caccia with a monumental entrance consisting of a horseshoe-shaped peristyle with four Ionic columns and a fountain in the center. The peristyle was paved with a mosaic depicting the view of an entire port, which revolves around the composition and Eroti fishermen, with themes similar to those present in one of the cubicles on the north side. On the left side of the horseshoe-shaped peristyle there is a pair of rooms, corresponding to a cubicle with a rectilinear alcove preceded by an antechamber: in the antechamber there is the mosaic with the battle of Eros and Pan , in the cubicle there is the mosaic of the Eroti Hunters. On the opposite side of the horseshoe-shaped peristyle, there is a similar pair of rooms, anteroom and cubicle with apsidal alcove: the antechamber has the mosaic of the Small Circus while the cubicle is decorated with the Agone music.
Directly from the monumental entrance of the villa there was access to a thermal complex.
The first room, equipped with quays, and probably used as a dressing room, is decorated with a floor mosaic depicting the lady of the house with her two children flanked by handmaids. From here you pass to an atrium decorated with the mosaic of the Circus: the Circus Maximus of Rome is represented, rich in details, with a chariot race in progress, won by the Prasina or Verdi faction. This corridor was probably used for indoor gymnastics. The traditional sequence of Roman thermal environments follows, with frigidarium, tepidarium and calidarium.
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