The monumental complex of Hadrian’s Villa is situated 5 kilometres below the picturesque ancient hill town of Tivoli (about 30 kilometres east-north-east of Rome), in the commune of Lazio, central Italy.
Hadrian’s Villa (Villa Adriana) was designed and built as a private summer retreat by Roman Emperor Hadrian (Publius Aelius Hadrianus) after he became Emperor in AD 117 (reign 117-138 AD).
Taking 10 years to build, the villa is the largest and richest built in the entire Roman Empire.
An exceptional complex of classical buildings, the Villa is a vast open-air museum with of some the finest architecture of the Roman world.
The villa grounds were filled with inspired full-scale adaptations or reproductions of Roman Emperor Hadrian’s beloved buildings he had seem during his travels through Greece and Egypt.
The Villa unquestionably captures the essence of the Classical Greek period, primarily due to Hadrian’s passion and admiration of Greek culture (Philhellene).
Hadrian was known as Graeculus, the little Greek and was as said to speak Greek more fluently than Latin, and in some cases demanded that his servants speak in Greek.
The Villa was an inspiration to artists during the Renaissance and Baroque periods and remains as one of the most evocative classical sites remaining in Italy.
One of the many highlights of the Villa is the monumental mystical Canopus. The Canopus is a reflecting pool 228 metres long and lined and surrounded by columns and statues.
It is believed to have been inspired by the canal that linked Alexandria in Egypt to ancient Canopus, which was a sanctuary of the God Serapis.
Another theory is that it represents the Mediterranean as it includes elements from the region including copies of the caryatids from the Erechtheion in Athens and two Amazons that adorned the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus sculpted by Phidias, the ancient Greek sculptor.
Another highlight is the unique Teatro Marittimo or Maritime Theatre. The theatre has a circular Ionic marble columned portico that rings an artificial lagoon that encloses a small island reached only by a means of two retractable wooden swing bridges. This island was a private retreat for Hadrian where he could escape the cares of the empire to write poetry and paint.
The Temple to Venus of Cnidus with replica Aphrodite statue is also a intriguing highlight.
The temple was modelled on the Ancient Greek Temple in Knidos in Turkey which featured the celebrated 4th century BC statue of Aphrodite by Greek master Praxiteles.
The statue was so lifelike that men of all ages would sneak into the temple at night and do unspeakable things to the statue
Pliny the Elder, the famous Roman scholar, considered the statue not only the finest figure by Praxiteles but, unsurpassed in the known world.
The Hadrian’s Villa (Villa Adriana) is a UNSECO World Heritage Site.
All text, images and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.