Hadrian's Villa--Introduction and Contents

Architect unknown; it is likely that Hadrian participated in the design and planning of his villa
early 2nd century CE

Born in the Roman provinces (near Seville), Hadrian rose to power as a talented military officer, becoming eventually Trajan's heir. (Trajan was childless and also from Spain.) But Hadrian was also well educated and interested in architecture. It is assumed that he participated in the design and layout of his large suburban villa and that in many ways the villa is an expression of Hadrian's personality. Certainly, the allusions to other places in the Roman Empire and the copies of Greek works show his cosmopolitanism and his love of Greek culture put into practice. Various styles and structures characterize the complex. In addition, no orthogonal ground plan, no central focus, or dominant orientation has been posited. However, excavation is still on-going at this site.

The huge villa was constructed on land belonging to Hadrian's wife. The complex, comprising more than thirty buildings, covers about 250 acres. This complex demonstrated how architecture could be effectively integrated with the landscape since large magnificent gardens were also part of the design. The area was also irrigated by numerous streams. The villa was about a day's horse ride from Rome and was Hadrian's preferred residence (when he was in Rome). A river nearby was also navigable so the villa could be reached by boat. In addition, this site was near stone quarries--both travertine and the stone used in the making of cement.

It is very difficult these days to get an idea of the original grandeur of this villa. The visitor sees primarily substructures, stripped of marble facing, frescoes, or other decoration. The museums of Italy and Europe are filled with statues, mosaics, and other decoration, taken from this villa. While the site seems very open, it was probably much more closed in, since today most of the roofs have collapsed and walking is unrestricted by walls or passageways.

Included on this site are the following areas of the villa:
page 1: the Pecile and the Heliocaminus Bath
page 2: areas of or near the Imperial Palace, including the Building with Doric Pillars
page 3: Maritime Theater
page 4: Philosophers' Chamber and Greek and Roman Libraries
page 5: Piazza d'Oro
page 6: Building with Fishpond and Large Baths
page 7: Praetorium, Small Baths and Vestibule, Nymphaeum with three Exedra
page 8: the Canopus
page 9: the Serapeum and the Temple of Venus

Continue to page 1.

Work Cited and/or Consulted:
Benedetta Adembri. Hadrian's Villa [official guidebook]. Milan: Electa, 2000.
Nicoletto Lanciano. Hadrian's Villa: between heaven and earth. Rome: Apeiron, 2005.

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© 2005 Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site), scanned, and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. They are not available for commercial purposes.

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