|Village of Piazza Armerina (my photo)|
Villa Romana del Casale
|Detail of an animal mosaic (turismo in Italia)|
Villa Romana del Casale is a large Roman villa, built in approximately 320 AD, (early 4th century) decorated with intricate mosaics located in the Sicilian countryside. It is believed to be an important statesman's country home and agricultural estate. It houses one of the best collections of Roman Mosaics in the world. It has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site. The detailed mosaics are very well preserved because the site was buried under a landslide, protecting it from weather damage and looting. It is a collection of buildings roughly oriented on 3 separate axis
|Map of the Villa del Romana Casale complex (sights.com)|
The estate consists of three main sections; 1.the open court and its encompassing rooms, 2. the private bath complex, 3. the grand formal entrance and a latrine complex. It is believed that in the 5th and 6th centuries the estates original walls were strengthened to protect the area from outside threats. It is recognized as a classic example of a Roman villa, but it is believed from the archaeological evidence that it was constructed over a pre-existing villa. The formal entrance hall has a grand entrance and columns of Egyptian granite. The floor and walls contain marble from different Mediterranean areas, this particular variety of marble was highly regarded in Roman times.
|Villa Romana baths (Transparent roofing has been added to protect the ruins.)|
When the Romans controlled Sicily they turned it into a vast agricultural area for the growing of grain to feed citizens of the empire. They had large agricultural estates called "Latifundia" in Sicily to see to those production needs. The villa is mentioned in Roman records and has the name of "Filosofiana", it is where the Roman official overseeing the estate lived, and where administrative functions for the estate were carried out. Rooms for state functions, for housing visiting dignitaries, dining halls, storage areas for agricultural products, and areas for the entertainment of visitors have been discovered. The villa is profusely decorated with mosaics and has frescoes as well. Two other Roman villas have also been discovered in Sicily, one is near Noto in SE Sicily, a grand old town known for Baroque style, and the other near Messina on the North East coast towards mainland Italy. Both of these villas also have mosaics but not as extensive as the Villa Romana del Casale.
|View into the baths complex showing mosaics and the ancient stone wall construction. (my photo)|
In the 12th century, a massive landslide covered the villa and the remaining residents of the area moved to another settlement which has become the current location of the town of Piazza Armeria, which is 5 km away from the site.. The villa was mostly forgotten and the area was used as farmland after that. In the early 1800's columns and mosaics were being unearthed with farm plows and excavations were begun. An extensive medieval settlement has also been found in the area which was possibly abandoned when the landslide occurred. Today, the University of Rome is participating in formal archaeological digs.
|Open court area showing part of the fountain, animal head mosaics, and geometric patterning on floor. (my photo)|
The grand formal entrance of the villa had an elaborate fountain consisting of three basins with a mosaic of fish swimming in the waves. The most famous mosaic would be the one known as the "Bikini Girls" which features scenes of females who appear to be wearing bikinis participating in a variety of athletic competitions including weight lifting, discus throwing, running, and ball games. Also shown in the mosaic is a woman in a toga offering a crown and palm to the winner. The "Bikini Girls" mosaic was excavated in 1960. Other rooms feature a mosaic of Orpheus, a musician and poet in Greek Mythology, playing a lyre with tamed wild animals all around him. The "Great Hunt" scene features men in boats transporting all kinds of wild animals which they are transporting back to Rome. It shows different sea faring craft, oxen, elephants, sea creatures, lions, horned animals and hunters with shields. The mosaics are so detailed that the mosaic people even have shadows crafted in mosaic as well. Other representations detailed in the mosaics are: cupids fishing, a children's hunt, actors and choruses, fruits, geometrics, various animals, the poet Arion, dancing women, the seasons, giants wrestling with serpents, and a mosaic of Hercules.
|Storeroom with detailed mosaics. (my photo)|
The villa had a Roman thermal bath complex, supplied with water from an aqueduct system, with a layout following the common theme of Roman baths. An entrance, with places to undress, an exercise room, steam bath or calidaria, warm bath or tepidarium, and a cold bath or frigidarium with a pool. Remains of ovens used to heat the baths can be seen. The routine at a Roman bath was to enter and undress, visit the steam bath, then the warm bath to wash, apply oil and then scrape the skin of oil, dirt and sweat. After one was clean, then the cold baths were visited. Visitors can also see the remains of a large external octagonal latrine with several seats, located to the side of the villa.
|"Bikini Girls" mosaic, (my photo).|
Wiki, whc.unesco.org, map from: http://sights.seindal.dk/sight/456_Villa_Romana_del_Casale.html,
|Detail of Hunting mosaic (turismo in Italia)|
|Mosaic detail (typicalsicily.it)|
|Nice shot of floor mosaics and wall frescoes with the remains of columns lining the hall (agri turismo Borgo degli Ulivi)|