The Villa Romana del Casale is about 5km south west of Piazza Armerina in eastern Sicily and is the site of a 4th century AD Roman estate. It was inhabited until about the 12th century when it was covered by a mudslide and was not rediscovered until the mid 20th century.
The villa has some of the most extensive and high quality mosaics in Italy. Originally, the site was the main centre of a latifundium (a large estate). It is not known who the owner/builder of the villa was, though whoever it was may have had Imperial connections. They certainly had pots of money, as it is estimated that it took 50-60 years to complete the mosaics. I’m sure we’ve all known builders like that…
At the entrance to the villa are a set of baths with dressing area, massage room and hot and cold pools. One of the most interesting mosaics shows the mistress (domina) of the house walking to the baths with two servant girls and possibly two sons or slave boys.
There’s also a communal family loo:
Some interesting geometric mosaics:
The mosaic floors also make use of intriguing trompe-l’oeil effects in the borders:
One long corridor that leads towards the basilica features a whole range of wild animals:
Thee are also some quite brutal hunting scenes which remind me of the equally savage animal depictions in the mosaics of the Great Palace in Istanbul that I covered in an earlier post.
The most impressive mosaic is one huge, continuous scene in the corridor in front of the basilica (the reception room of the villa). It depicts the hunting, capture and transfer from Africa to Rome of a huge variety of wild animals for display and combat in the Circus games.
They obviously packed the animals carefully to protect them on the sea journey to Rome.
Obviously some animals were more difficult than others to bring on board ship:
At one part of the mosaic there are two richly dressed figures surveying the scene. It is possible that the one on the left is the owner of the villa: