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Chapter 3: The Villa at Site 10 - Description and Function of The Residential Rooms or Areas

See "Site 10: Villa - Plans and Reconstructions" section of this report for room designations by number.

The principal reception room, Room 2, of the Villa at Site 10 existed throughout its history. It is the room where the simple black-bordered white mosaic floor had at its center the Hylas Emblema. (See "Mosaic Floors" and "Oecus Emblema" sections of this report.) This emblema had first formed the center focus of an opus signinum floor with randomly embedded black and white tesserae. Both floors indicated the position for the padrone's couch at the back of the room. The black-bordered white mosaic floor and frame for the emblema can, based on stylistic comparisons, be dated to the reign of Hadrian or perhaps one or two decades earlier. The Hylas Emblema itself, again from stylistic evidence and technique of manufacture, best fits into the first half of the first century B.C. 29 Between the opus signinum floor and its later black-bordered white mosaic there was a shard no earlier than the middle of the first century A. C.. At levels below the signinum floor two coins were found, one identified as struck in Rome, B. C. c.155, and the other again from Rome, B.C. c.132. Also found in the same strata were numerous shards from the third, second and first centuries B. C. 30

It should be noted that an axis from the middle point of the padrone's couch ran through the emblema and the doorway of the room out to the peristyle garden. 31 Cuttings in the bedrock of the garden and their proximity to a cistern hypothesize a water fountain or pool replicating the watery depths into which Hylas was pulled by the nymphs. Therefore, the symbolism of dying / rising is repeated in the orientation of couch, emblema, and peristyle garden's decorative embellishment. This is the same theme that is carried by the Campana Relief frieze of the peristyle corridors (see below).

Using the evidence of color, its quantity, and design elements of wall plaster fragments found above the mosaic floor, a possible reconstruction of what the painted wall decoration might have looked like is offered by the author of this report. 32 There were no painted plaster fragments that could be identified as coming from the room's ceiling (see "Fresco Wall Decoration" section of this report). Where wall met floor there was a simple white to gray marble moulding.

The apparent simplicity of the wall decoration of Room 2 makes comparison with the Pompeian Styles for dating purposes irrelevant (very late Fourth Style?). It would seem better to think of the laying of the black-bordered white mosaic floor, just suggested to be during the reign of Hadrian or a decade or so earlier, as signifying a redecoration of many of the older parts of the villa in either Phase 2C or Phase 2D (the time of Domitian or the first years of Hadrian's rule). This redecoration likely applies to the corridors of the peristyle and, if Domitianic, the creation of the luxurious triclinium on the west (Room 35).

The peristyle of the Site 10 Villa was composed of matching Doric columns made from pie-shaped bricks like those of the western portico, but here stuccoed without fluting and painted red. Following the Doric canon, the columns had no bases and were set onto a continuous concrete stylobate or plinth. The red-painted columns would have been a marked contrast to the dominant yellow of the back walls of the corridors (see "Fresco Wall Decoration" and below).

The corridors of the peristyle are designated Room 3 (the northern corridor), Room 4 (the eastern corridor), Room 5 (the southern corridor) and Room 6 (the western corridor). They must exist for all phases of the Period 2 villa, although repainted and redecorated several times. The best evidence for their various redecorations is perhaps the dating of the several different plaques or panels of the Campana Relief assigned to the corridors (see Painter's "Campana Reliefs" section of this report). The first use of Campana panels may well have been at the time the villa is recreated in Phase 2A (the time of Augustus). Each of Painter's subsequent dates for the individual plaques or panels can be associated with a replacement of damaged plaques or even an entirely new scheme of decoration. If, as this author believes, the final scheme uses the plaques as individual "pictures" and not as a frieze (see the three alternatives given in the "Fresco Wall Decoration" section), the ravages of time may have reduced the number of panels available and thus made a continuous frieze impossible.33

The only hint for the paving of the corridors was a few white tesserae, in situ, where wall and floor joined. At the point of join there was preserved a simple white marble moulding like that found in Room 2 (the oecus). The floor of the peristyle's eastern corridor had been cut into for the purpose of seating several large dolia undoubtedly when much of the residential part of the villa became industrialized (late 2nd century A. C).

The corridors of the peristyle utilized parapet screens which would have prevented direct physical, but not visual or symbolic, access to the garden area at its center. On the north a large fragment of a faced concrete screen remained in situ between the central columns. This screen offers proof of the highly sophisticated patten used for the tufa facing blocks (see "Site 10: Features and Decorative Elements"). Whether the surface blocks were painted, or even stuccoed, could not be determined. The screens would have rested on the continuous stylobate or plinth for the Doric columns and, in turn, would have been attached to these columns.

Between the central columns of the western peristyle corridor a well-head, which had been reworked several times, was discovered in 1980 (see "Site 10: Features and Decorative Elements"). The shaft of the well cut through the soft gray tufa of the bedrock and was empty for a depth of more than 40 meters. When explored in 1981 only modern fill was found at the bottom. 34 Therefore, the life-span of the well as a source of water was a long one and perhaps extended into contemporary times.

A concrete reticulate wall, although slight in measure (another parapet screen?), hid the well from the garden area of the peristyle. Cuttings in the bedrock of the garden suggest a pool or grotto on line with the central axis from the padrone's couch through the doorway of Room 2 (see above). If a pool, its source of water would not have been the well but, instead, water would have been brought in by means of a lead pipe, a fragment of which was found here, from another location. Water for a pool might be related to a small below-ground cistern discovered in the peristyle's southern corridor (Room 5). Because its vault had collapsed or been destroyed, this cistern did not give up any useful dating material. Its exact dimension, even definition, was hard to establish due to the softness of the tufa bedrock which formed its sides. This cistern probably was fed by roof water which first drained into a concrete gutter found below the roof line of the corridor over-hangs. 35

The principal triclinium (Room 35) of the Site 10 Villa is contained in a substantial addition to the villa during the time of Domitian (Phase 2C). This addition also provides an "L" portico (rather than its later symmetrical "U" form) overlooking the enclosed western garden (Rooms 36, 37 and 38), as well as what are probably facilities for cooking (Room 33 - see below).36 The triclinium is identified from its opus sectile floor (see "Opus Sectile Floors" section) which has a central carpet, slightly different in design from the rest, around which the diners' couches would have been placed. Thanks to the debris from one of the western bedrock-cut chambers and the passage leading into it, a totally accurate reconstruction of the painted wall decoration has been possible (see "Fresco Wall Decoration"). 37

Next to the triclinium is a connecting large space (Room 33), also part of the Phase 2C addition, which has a concrete-lined and once vaulted cistern at its center. It may be that this space or room was the villa's kitchen during its last two phases. However, there is no remaining evidence of ovens or cooking platforms, unless a concrete-walled area at the rear of the room represents just such a platform. Because there is no definite proof of cooking facilities, the identification of the space or room as a kitchen is tenuous. Patches of the floor of the room, both to the north and south of the central cistern, were found in situ. These patches consist of concrete with small embedded, colored-stone tesserae, somewhat randomly dispersed (see "Mosaic Floors" section). Whether or not the cistern's vault was low enough for the concrete floor to cover it without interruption could not be determined. Bits and pieces of terracotta pipe were part of the cistern's destruction fill along with a black glaze pottery fragment. 38

Phase 2C also creates more residential rooms (Rooms 39, 40, 41, 42 and 43) to the south within the southwest quadrant of the villa. Likely the conversion of an earlier (Phase 2A) large, above-ground cistern takes place at this same time. These rooms are identified as 44,45, 46 and 47. Room 44 may have become a latrine flushed by a long channel running from the cistern in the southern corridor of the peristyle to beyond the confines of the villa. Rooms 39, 41, 42 and 43 had mosaic floors, those of Rooms 42 and 43 with patterns in black and white tesserae of considerable complexity (see "Mosaic Floors" section).

Room 40 could well have contained a staircase, thus adding at least a second storey for this part of the villa; we might consider it a low tower in elevation. It is doubtful that any other part of the villa carried more than a single storey. 39

Phase 2D brings the construction of an open courtyard with a small two-columned and concrete paved portico built out from Rooms 41 and 42. These rooms and portico form the eastern side of the courtyard. At this same time the "L" portico of the villa's western flank is given a southern wing, turning the "L" into a symmetrical "U" plan. Within this new portico wing was found a round bedrock-cut entrance into the villa's cuniculus system, one of five such entrances discovered intact. The courtyard is closed on the south by Room 48, a double-walled extension from Room 42 and some kind of screening element, also double-walled, to the west (Room 67).

The core of the residential rooms of the villa can be assigned to its earliest phases, 2A and 2B. From the beginning they may have included a five room bath suite. This bath suite is expanded and reworked in phases 2C and 2D. In Phase 2D a series of rooms running east -west along the 2C northern perimeter wall are added. Those rooms to the west (rooms 61, 63, and 77; and corridors 57, 58, 59 and 64) are incorporated into what now becomes a generous set of bathing rooms. 40

It is impossible to assign specific functions (other than the bathing rooms) for the core residential rooms as well as to determine how much reconfiguration and redecoration would have occurred in the passing of 2A into 2D. Floors and entrances/exits give few if any clues. Rooms 12 and 13 are corridors from the main portico of the villa (that which overlooks the western enclosed garden) to the western corridor of the villa's peristyle. The corridor designated Room 12 had a fine black-ground mosaic floor with neatly inserted white tesserae (see "Mosaic Floors" section); this same room gave access to two of the rooms (Room 29 and 30) of the original five room bath suite (Rooms 28, 29, 30, 31 and 32). All the bathing rooms had simple white mosaic floors and seven were raised on the suspensurae of a hypocaust (Rooms 30, 31,32, 25, 28, 61 and 77). Room 29, at first round in plan and perhaps heated by being open to the sky, becomes a service and firing chamber along with a stair pit (originally a means of access to the cuniculi?) on the western side of the unroofed and now enclosed service courtyard. 41 A walled extension of Room 61 (Room 62) is an additional fire chamber certainly for heating Room 61 and possibly Room 63.

Rooms 61 and 63 were separated by an opus craticium wall which was built on top of a fine mosaic. This mosaic floor was composed of two carpets, one with a fish scale pattern and the other with a black-and-white geometric design. It was part of this second carpet which was destroyed to provide Room 61 with its hypocaust. 42

At the northernmost end of Room 59 there was a well-preserved latrine (Room 60), marble sheathed throughout. It also was part of the 2D expansion. Access to this latrine was by way of corridors (Rooms 57,58 and 59) leading from the exterior of villa and surrounding Room 77. The southern corridor (Room 58) and its extension to the east (Room 56) had a fine black-ground mosaic floor with embedded large colored stones (see "Mosaic Floors" section). Here, too, an opus craticium wall was built over the existing mosaic, thus separating the southern corridor from the vestibule entrance into the northern industrial quadrant to the east ( see below).

Room 26 in its expanded 2D form was given a large plunge pool at its northern end. It was drained, or perhaps filled, by a shallow terra cotta channel just below floor level. On the evidence of tile imprints in the stucco underfloor, it would seem that the whole of the space with its entrance vestibule was paved with small hexagonal or, toward the north, square tiles. 43

Although suspensurae were found in situ well below ground level of Room 32 (indicating that it once had been heated), the fact that it clearly exited into Room 33 (the kitchen?) relates the space to the 2C dining facilities rather than the 2D bath suite. Room 34 may have had a staircase (now much deteriorated) leading downward which gave access to the villa's cuniculi and tufa-cut chambers on the western slope. This staircase may have replaced that of the large service courtyard (Room 79) when its stair became a fire chamber and the courtyard itself an enclosed but roofless service space opening onto the peristyle.

Room 31 had a shallow pool, the water of which was heated by its hypocaust and also flue tiles running up its back and side walls. 44 Rooms with positive proof of flue tiles built into at least one wall were Rooms 25, 28, 30, 31 and 77. 45 In fact, the hypocaust system for Room 77 was preserved totally, all of the floor over the suspensurae in situ. At the edges of the room were small white tesserae indicating there was once a mosaic over the terracotta tiles. Yet the source of heat for the hypocaust could not be determined.

There is no doubt that the residential rooms of the Site 10 Villa represent a high degree of luxury and convenience. All was completed by the Hadrianic era at the latest. This date is well established by pottery, stamped roof tiles and coins. ( see the pottery sections of this report and "Brick Stamps"). Questions not answered concern ownership and whether or not the villa was a year-round residence or merely a suburban retreat. As the excavator, I believe the latter far more likely. Nonetheless, the villa on the evidence of its industrial facilities certainly was turning a handsome profit in its last hundred years of occupancy.

Addendum to Chapter 3:

Entrances from the Outside into the Residential and Bathing Rooms of the Villa at Site 10

A few words need to be said about entrances into the residential and bathing quarters (the northwest and southwest quadrants) of the Site 10 Villa. During Phase 2D, entrances/exits number eight in all.   Two major entrances, one on the north and one to the south, lead into the western corridor of the villa's peristyle (Room 6) and undoubtedly were first established in Phase 2A. These remain an important means of access into the core of the villa throughout its life span. However, the northern entrance becomes internalized when the villa's perimeter is pushed northward in Phase 2D. Yet the limestone threshold with lead pivots is kept intact.   Two other entrances, both on the west, open to mosaic paved corridors (rooms 12 and 13) which, in turn, lead to the same western corridor of the peristyle and also can be dated to Phase 2A. The northernmost corridor provided direct access to the earliest bathing rooms of the villa (rooms 18,28,29,30, 31, and 32).

Again, two important entrances, one at the far eastern end of the peristyle's northern corridor (Room 3) and the other at the eastern end of the villa's southern corridor (Room 5) seem present in Phase 2A. These entrances persist as late at Phase 2C, but are much altered by Phase 2D, especially that to the north.

In Phase 2C three minor entrances give access to rooms 39, 41, and 42. It should be remembered that Room 40 is probably a staircase to one or more upper stories of the tower-like pavilion. These entrances in Phase 2D open from a newly constructed portico (Room 66).

In Phase 2D a major entrance is created almost midway in the new perimeter wall on the north. This allows passage to both the villa's bathing rooms and its industrial section (the mechanical press facilities) as well as the now enclosed but unroofed northern courtyard (Room 79) So too, an entrance opening from the villa's western loggia at its far northern end (Room 36) gives access to both its residential and bathing quarters.

A series of dead-end entrances, perhaps better thought of as a way of lighting as well as entering the spaces or rooms beyond (rooms 20, 21, and 10), can at latest be dated to Phase 2C, perhaps even to 2B. The rooms or spaces which border the “U” plan open loggia (Phase 2D) look out onto the western garden. One of these rooms (Room 10), that to the south, is probably used for storage or some other activity on the evidence of its multi layered opus signinum floor. The other rooms farther north (rooms 20 and 21) were mosaic paved and might have provided sleeping quarters.

From all the above description of entrances/exits it is obvious that easy communication to the outside was of primary concern to the villa's planners during all its phases. Noteworthy is the fact that with each new phase the bathing rooms increase their independence from the rooms which can be considered more strictly residential. This last could mean that the bathing facilities are used by more persons, especially neighbors, than just the villa's owners.
All text and images copyright © 2002 by Walter Widrig and Rice University. Last updated May 2007 by