Hadrian's VillaLuxurious imperial villa from the first century CE Tivoli / Lazio / Italy
The Building ProcessEmperor Publius Aelius Hadrianus
The construction of the villa was begun immediately after Hadrian became emperor in 118 CE and a first phase of construction extended until 125 CE, when Hadrian returned from the first of his great journeys. He resided at the villa in the summer of 125 CE and probably stayed there regularly until he embarked on the second journey in 128 CE, so the central parts of the villa must have been fully functional and presentable as an imperial residence in 125 CE.
The villa wasn't completely finished in 125 CE, and apparently Hadrian also made minor changes and additions to the overall plan during his stay in Italy, so a second period of construction in 125-134 CE brought the project to an end.
Hadrian was very interested in architecture and himself a capable architect, so it is highly likely that he took part in the design and planning of the villa from the beginning and in detail. It is not known, however, who exactly the architect was.
Even though many of the buildings are associated with famous buildings or places in other parts of the empire, the construction techniques used are very Roman. Almost all the buildings are constructed in opus mixtum, a combination of cement, small tufa blocks and bricks, which is a technique invented by the Romans.
The construction techniques give the archaeologists some very valuable information that helps date the villa and the individual buildings. The bricks are often stamped with the names of the Roman consuls of the year of production, and this stamp provides a perfect dating instrument for the construction of the individual walls.
The imperial palace is constructed on top of an older villa from the first century BCE. It is now known whether this villa was still in use, or whether it was abandoned and in ruin, when Hadrian decided on the location for his new residence. In any case, most of the previous villa was demolished and removed to make room for the new villa, but some parts are still present, such as a cryptoporticus with mosaic ceiling under the imperial palace. Parts of the old villa might have been used during the earliest period of construction.The Hall of Philosophers
The first few buildings to be erected as part of Hadrian's project were the Maritime Theatre and the Hall of the Philosophers, which both have bricks with a 117 CE date, and the Heliocaminus Baths where many bricks carry a pre-123 CE date. These buildings can reasonably be seen as additions to the earlier villa. It is worth noting that the orientation of precisely these three buildings is unique in the villa.
The vast majority of bricks are from 123/124 CE, and they have been used in almost every building in the villa. This surge of activity was probably provoked by the news that the emperor was about the return to Rome in 125 CE. This also demonstrates beyond any doubt that the Villa Hadriana is a result of a single unified plan, and not an agglomerate of buildings that have grown over time.
Later bricks, dated from 126 CE and later, are also found, mostly in the Building with Peristyle Pool and in the Golden Court. These parts of the villa were therefore finished in the second phase of construction, but since they also contain older bricks, they were initiated during the first phase.
Concluding, the Villa Hadriana was built after a unified plan. It was constructed over an older villa, and the first buildings could be additions to the older villa, but when construction of the imperial residence started, the overall plan was already laid out. Most of the central parts of the villa was ready for use in 125 CE, but some parts were finished later, in the period 125-134 CE.Next: Works of Art and Building Materials
This article has been split into 7 separate sections. Use the menu below to jump to another section.
- The Meaning of the Individual Buildings
- The Building Process
- Works of Art and Building Materials
- The Villa after Hadrian
- Literature and Links
- Access Road
- Barracks of the Guard
- Building with Doric Columns
- Building with Peristyle Pool and Cryptoporticus
- Building with Three Exedrae
- Court of the Libraries
- Cryptoporticus near the Large Baths
- Decorative Techniques in Hadrian's Villa - Stucco, Mosaics and Opus Sectile
- Golden Court
- Greek Library
- Greek Theatre
- Hall of the Philosophers
- Heliocaminus Baths
- Imperial Triclinium
- Large Baths
- Latin Library
- Maritime Theatre
- Nympheum - Stadion
- Pavilion of Tempe
- Praetorian Pavilion
- Residential Villa
- Servant Accomodation
- Small Baths
- Temple of Serapis
- Temple of Venus
- Terrace of Tempe
- Antinous - Protege of Emperor Hadrian (c. 110 CE - 130 CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Antoninus Pius - Roman Emperor (138-161 CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Apollodorus of Damascus - Roman Architect (1st/2nd century CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Augustus - Roman Emperor (27 BCE-14 CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Capitoline Museums (Campidoglio, Rome, Italy)
- Cicero (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Constantine I - Roman Emperor (306-337 CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Diocletian - Roman Emperor (284-305 CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Faun in Red Marble (Palazzo Nuovo, Capitoline Museums, Campidoglio, Rome, Italy)
- Furietti Centaurs - Two marble statues from the Villa Hadriana (Palazzo Nuovo, Capitoline Museums, Campidoglio, Rome, Italy)
- Hadrian - Roman Emperor (117-138 CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Harpocrates - Horus the Child (Palazzo Nuovo, Capitoline Museums, Campidoglio, Rome, Italy)
- Marcus Aurelius - Roman Emperor (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Mosaic with Drinking Doves (Palazzo Nuovo, Capitoline Museums, Campidoglio, Rome, Italy)
- Mosaic with Theatrical Masks (Palazzo Nuovo, Capitoline Museums, Campidoglio, Rome, Italy)
- Rome - The Eternal City (Italy)
- Sabina - Roman Empress (117-136 CE) and Wife of Hadrian (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Septimius Severus - Roman Emperor (193-211 CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Trajan - Roman Emperor (98-117 CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Vatican Museums (Vatican City State)
Copyright © 2004 René Seindal, last changed 2004-10-19Site Search Quicklinks Venice Kayak - guided kayak tours in Venice, Italy