Friday, September 9, 2016

Analysis of Hadrian's Villa

Historical Background
The Hadrian’s villa, also called Villa Adriana in Italian, was constructed starting from 117 AD at Tivioli, as a retreat from Hadrian's place at Palatine Hill in Rome. During his later years, Hadrian actually ruled the empire from the villa. 
Publius Aeliues Hadrienus was born January of  76 CE. In his youth, he developed a fondness for hellenic culture that was to earn him the nickname “Graculus”(the Greekling). His villa, in this case, certainly reflects his love towards greek style architecture. Another influence in constructing his villa is, very possibly, Antinous. 
In the year 100 CE, two years after his guardian became Emperor, Hadrian was wed to the young great-niece of said guardian. The girl, Sabina, was approximately 13 and still fairly young even by Roman terms of marriage. There was never much fondness between Sabina and Hadrian, and indeed there was much hostility between the two, who were married for purely political reasons as Sabina was the Emperor's closest unmarried female relative.
Instead, Hadrian was in a very intimate relationship with Antinous, who unfortunately died in Nile when he was 17. After Antinous’ death, Hadrian remained in mourning for the next eight years, and had difficulty separating his private grief from his public self as the emperor. He built countless sculptures and temples for Antinous. When he returned again to Rome from Egypt where Antinous died in 136, suffering from poor health and depression. He retired to his villa where he dictated his memoirs from beneath a statue of Antinous. 

Archeological history
Hadrian’s villa lived until late antiquity. During the decline of the Roman Empire the villa fell into disuse and was partially ruined.  It was sacked by Barbarians of Totila, and then taken as building material by the city. Its identity was lost for a long time until 16th century when it was excavated and explored, in search of roman sculptures and mosaics. 
The first extensive excavations date back to the middle of the 16th century, and were ordered by Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este who was at the time the powerful Governor of Tivoli. he had much of the marble statues in Hadrian's villa removed to decorate his own Villa d'Este located nearby.
Over the years there were many excavations but they were not carried out  in a scientific way, most of them were simply treasure hunting. Therefore very little is left of the magnificent decoration of the villa and as we visit today, we will not see any of the glorious marble pavements and wall panels. The marble pavements, also called opus sectile is a distinctive mark of the emperor's presence, especially when reddish purple colored stones are used because reddish purple is the "imperial"color. Another symbol of the imperial power is the vermicu latum- which is the mosaic panels with tiny littles tesserae. Today Nothing is known about the finds, there is no information about the last phases of the villa's life and decay. We do not know the exact finding-spot of the greater part of its sculptures and mosaics. 

Architecture Style
Hadrian’s Villa is 17 miles(27 kilometers) east of Rome and 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) southwest of Tivoli. It is situated on a long low ridge bordered on the west by the level expanse of the Campagna and on the eat by a small valley which separates it from the foothills of the Apennines. Even in its present state, one could imagine its past splendor when the now ruined gardens, theaters, palaces, baths and other buildings are adorned with priceless treasures of art which the Emperor Hadrian had collected on his travels throughout his vast empire. 
The buildings materials used in building the villa are mainly Tufa and Pozzolana(a kind of volcanic ash). The villa has an interesting water supply system because the villa does not stand straight, it  leans  from south to north. The water come from the south; the difference of level gives the impulse to supply waterworks.
We have studied about the domus and we know that each room serves its own function and meaning.  And it turns out that  a big villa like this also correspond to this pattern. In a domus, the atrium, surrounded by a porch, has a water basin at its center, the impluvium.  On the atrium,  opened the tablinum, where all the family glories were exhibited. On the other end, the tablinum, opens onto an inner garden, the peristylium, which give access to other rooms of the houses, the bedrooms and the kitchen. 
  The floor plan attached in the bottom side of the handout shows the entire map of the villa area. The imperial residence is located in the center, on the west, there are theaters, temples and library, and on the east, there is temple of apollo, the accademia and so on. 
The drawing above the floor plan shows the layout of the Imperial Residential area of the Villa. Similar to a domus, the atrium of this residence  is the casino with semi circular arcades. 
On its left, we can see the porch, but on a really large scale in this case of course. The big fountain basin can be considered as the water basin in the center, the impluvium. The porch surrounding the impluvium, which usually is rectangular, here, it is curved instead because curved lines are one of the main features of Hadrian style architecture. The curving porches are surrounded by three semicircular gardens, decorated by smaller fountains. 
Both the garden and the garden stadium features the peristyle. The highest point of the villa is the winter palace, which has large windows and the best room temperature. Facing the casino, there is a triclinium/the dining room facing the casino, the atrium. Notably, all the room in the winter palace are decorated with precious marble walls reaching up to the ceiling, and have marble floor pavements. It even even has a winter heating plant.
There were several bathing establishments at the villa. The Small Bath is located on the east side, while the Large Bath on the southwest. The Women’s Bath on the north and the Barracks of the Praetorian Guard on the south. The Quadri porticus below the garden stadium is another closed garden surrounded by a porch. It is designed to link the small baths to the casino and the garden stadium. 
The Crytoporticus, on the other hand, serves as an alternative passway for people who want to reach the baths from the upper area in the winterpalace or in general. The Cryptoporticus leads you to the Praetorium Pavilion, while another corridor links it to another very important building, the vestibulum, that used to be the entrance of the villa.
The Praetorium Pavillion, connected from the cryptoporticus with a staircase has a great panoramic view of the entire villa. 
After all, this imperial residence part of the villa was a self-contained complex, located in the very heart of the Villa in a prominent position, featuring all the traditional elements of a roman domus, but enlarged to achieve an imperial and monumental scale, and reinvented in order to show the status and luxury of a royal palace.

“The Small Baths at Hadrian's Villa”
William L. MacDonald and Bernard M. Boyle
Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians , Vol. 39, No. 1 (Mar., 1980), pp. 5-27

“Hadrian's Villa”
Eleanor Clark
The Kenyon Review , Vol. 12, No. 3 (Summer, 1950), pp. 377-432
Published by: Kenyon College
Article Stable URL:

No comments:

Post a Comment