Villa Romana del CasaleA luxurious Roman villa from around 320 CE Piazza Armerina / Sicily / Italy
How the Villa Was Used in Antiquity
The common visitor of the villa would arrive at the entrance, where the he (it would probably be a male) would see the imposing three way arch of triumph with fountains between the arches and frescoes on the walls to the side. This would be a testimony to the military might of the proprietor of the villa.
Passing the arch the visitor enters the atrium, which featured a fountain at the centre and a shady colonnade on two sides. To the left would be a passage to the latrine, in case the visitor had to absent himself on behalf on nature, and to the right the tablinum, the entrance to the peristyle. Lesser important visitors would probably not go any further that the atrium.
In the tablinum the visitor is greeted symbolically by mosaics of the hosts offering olive branches before entering the peristyle. Here he would be made to wait in the shade under the colonnade until he could be received in the great basilica. Here too was a more luxurious internal latrine in case of need. Many visitors would never be allowed further that this.
The most welcome visitors would be permitted to climb the few steps to the stupendous corridor of the great hunt where he would again have to wait. Here he could admire the mosaics depicting the strange animals that could be found on the other estates of the patron.
At last, if he was one of the lucky few, he might be invited to enter the great basilica to meet the master of the house in person.
The rest of the villa would probably be off limits for all but select few, mostly the peers of the owner. They could be invited to use the thermal baths with the owner (go to the baths was an occasion for socialising for the Romans) or have dinner or conversation with him in the elliptical peristyle and the triclinium.
The Use of the Rooms
Most of the rooms in the villa have clear purposes, which can be determined from their position in the complex and from the decorative elements in the room. There is no doubt about the purpose of the thermal baths, the various latrines, and of the areas that were definitely intended for the public, such as the entrance, atrium, tablinum, peristyle and the great basilica. Also, the elliptical peristyle and the triclinium are certain as (semi-)private area intended for relaxing and dining.Erotic scene from the smaller private apartment
Of the guest rooms some have probably been service rooms, while others have been intended for guests or for proprietor and his family. Some of the rooms have simple geometric mosaics, some poorly laid, indicating a less prestigious purpose, while others have elaborate figurative mosaics, such as the room of the dance, the room of the fishing cupids and the room of the little hunt, hinting at higher status users.
The private apartments have several interpretations. The larger (southern) apartment has a central hall (the Hall of Arion) flanked by smaller rooms with mosaics of children at play or at work, so this has been described as the cubiculi of the domina and the children, while the smaller (northern) apartment which has a cubiculum with erotic mosaics, was taken to be the quarters of the pater familias. This theory is contradicted by the fact that the highest ranking member of the family should have the smaller, and less ostentatiously decorated rooms, while the children would have much more sumptuous sleeping quarters of almost the same size. The size, position and decoration of the apartments make much more sense if they are seen as separate apartments for two couples of unequal social status. The larger and more luxuriously decorated apartment would belong to the higher ranking couple and the smaller apartment to the other couple. There are some clear parallels in the organisation of the two apartments. Both have two cubiculi, one with a square apse and one with a round apse (which could be for the male and the female occupant resp.) with a common entrance. In the larger apartment the Hall of Arion could have been a library.
Another room without a known purpose is the Hall of Orpheus. It has been likened to the central hall in the larger apartment due to their equal size, but it could also be a parallel to the Great Basilica in that it is a room with an apse. If the villa was inhabited by two families of unequal standing, both men would have proper surroundings for the reception of guests and clients.Next: The Name of the Villa and its Owner
This article has been split into 8 separate sections. Use the menu below to jump to another section.
- How the Villa Was Used in Antiquity
- The Name of the Villa and its Owner
- The Mosaics
- Statues, Wall Painting and Other Decorative Elements
- Visiting the Villa Romana del Casale
- Literature and Links
- Aqueducts - The water supply of the villa
- Atrium - An atrium with portico and fountains
- Atrium of the Fishing Cupids - The atrium of the larger private apartment
- Corridor of the Great Hunt - Mosaic with magnificent scenes of hunts for live animals
- Cubicle of Children Hunting - The bedroom of the lady of the house
- Cubicle of Choruses and Actors - Probably the bedroom of the owner of the villa
- Cubicle of Fruits - Bedroom with geometric mosaic and wall paintings
- Cubicle with Erotic Mosaic - Bedroom with geometric mosaic and wall paintings
- Elliptical Peristyle - A secondary peristyle for the invited guests
- Entrance - Main entrance to the villa complex
- Great Basilica - The central hall in the villa.
- Guest room with geometric mosaic - Cubicle with antechamber and simple mosaics
- Hall of Arion - A splendid hall with the legend of the poet Arion
- Hall of Orpheus - Living room with mosaic of Orpheus playing for the animals
- Internal latrine - A private latrine inside the villa
- Latrine - The larger latrine of the villa
- Octagonal Latrine - External latrine behind the main buildings of the villa
- Passage from the corridor to the elliptical peristyle
- Passage from the peristyle to the elliptical peristyle
- Peristyle - The central open space in a Roman house
- Room of the Dance - Cubicle with mosaics of dancing women
- Room of the Fishing Cupids - Cubicle with cute mosaic and remains of wall painting
- Room of the Little Hunt - Living room with scenes of hunting and offering to Diana
- Room of the Seasons - Room with geometric mosaics with allegories of the four seasons
- Room with Girls in Bikini - Mosaic of girls dressed in bikini-like costumes
- Service rooms with geometric mosaics - Offices, work rooms and kitchen
- Tablinum - Room for welcoming the guests
- Thermal baths - The bathing complex of the villa
- Triclinium - Dining-room with Herculian mosaics
- Vestibule of Eros and Pan - Room with mosaic of a fist-fight between Eros and Pan
- Vestibule of Polyphemus - Mosaic with Ulysses offering wine to Polyphemus
- Vestibule of the Small Circus - Room with mosaics of children playing race track
- Apollo - The Romans imported the Greek god Apollo (Roman Religion and Mythology, Lexicon)
- Circus Maximus (Rome, Italy)
- Colosseum (Rome, Italy)
- Constantine I - Roman Emperor (306-337 CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Maxentius - Roman Emperor (306-312 CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Maximianus Herculius - Roman Emperor (286-305 CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
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