Villa of Antonines 2012


Deborah Chatr Aryamontri
Archaeological Researcher,
Center for Heritage & Archaeological Studies,
Montclair State University

Since 2010, MSU’s “Villa degli Antonini” Project has been investigating a largely neglected site in the modern town of Genzano di Roma, located in the Alban Hills near the 18th mile of the Via Appia. The site, which would have belonged to the ancient town of Lanuvium, is believed to hold an imperial villa belonging to the Antonine rulers (especially Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, Commodus) of the mid- to late-second century CE. Studying it is important for understanding villas in general and imperial villas in particular. However, the site is of special historical interest because it may be the villa in which at least two members of the dynasty were born and where the last member, the somewhat infamous Commodus, is reported by an ancient source to have killed wild animals in the arena, thereby earning the nickname “Roman Hercules.” Previous work at the site focused briefly on a large bath complex. However, the MSU project has been investigating an adjacent structure: A large, elliptical, amphitheatre-like building that has suffered considerable damage but which has revealed thousands of mosaic tesserae in many colors, tantalizing fragments of colored glass inlays, and fragments of wall and floor decoration consisting of marble imported from around the Mediterranean—showing that this was a truly sumptuous complex, fit in every way for displaying the power and wealth of the most powerful ruler in the Western world.