The context - the territory

The mansio of Philosophiana. A stopping place

Since the time of Emperor Augustus, who established the cursus publicus, the postal system designed to control and manage the vast territory of the Empire, to allow mail to move profitably within the Roman road network, it had been necessary to find somewhere to stay overnight, find refreshment and change horses. These needs were met by the mansiones, unique structures, whose name derives from the Latin verb manere, meaning to stop or to stay.
They were placed at various distances from each other, but could generally be reached by travellers within a day’s walk.
The mansio had an articulated structure, similar to that of a small village, the vicus, which was often used to house imperial or military officials in transit who found taverns and workshops, bedrooms, and spacious stables for their steeds. Often the mansio was also equipped with a spa complex, testifying to the importance of body care for the Romans, even during “business trips”.
The only post station from the imperial age so far found in Sicily is Sofiana, where thermal bath buildings can be recognised.
The most recent archaeological studies and investigations in the first decade of this century made it possible to recognise the Sophiana site as the site of a medium-sized Roman city. The urban agglomeration, with regular roads, dwellings and services, expanded around the original nucleus of the mansio, with maximum development around the 4th century AD, in the Constantinian era, after a period of abandonment at the end of the 3rd century, probably due to destructive natural events.

The senses tell the Tri-Apsed Triclinium

Form of greeting or ritual?

The astral interpretation of the mosaic

The apotheosis of Hercules

A dialogue between mythological and realistic scenes

Worship of the Lares

The protagonists of the mosaics

The mosaics of the late antiquity residence

High-ranking characters depicted in the mosaics of the apsidal niches of the frigidarium

The paths of virus, a reflection of the Dominus

The senses tell the private entrance to the spa

An eloquent symbol: the signum

The catalogue of animals

The rural sacrifice

The possible celebration of a solemn event

The senses tell the bi-apsed ambulatory – Corridor of the “Great Hunt”

The Latifundium

A chariot race, set in the circus Maximus of Rome, connects the villa to the city and centre of power

The senses tell the frigidarium

The late antiquity residence: locus amoenus and centre of administrative activities in the heart of Sicily

The realistic depiction of a spa procession with a high-ranking female figure

A small room embellished with marble

A view of the race from the imperial gallery

The main nuclei of the Domus

An organic microcosm: the structure of the villa

A line of armed men for an important Dominus

Outdoor breakfast

Banquets and panegyrics enlivened the vast hall, against the background of a floor mosaic celebrating the feats of Hercules

A royal room housed the Dominus during his audiences

The senses tell the room in the private apartment known as “small hunt”

A small room used as a privileged entrance to the baths

The mansio of Philosophiana. A stopping place

The senses tell the Bi-Apsed room

The senses tell the Sacellum of the Lares

The golden age: hypotheses about the villa’s period of construction and clues

A small room represents one of the activities of the thermal bath route

A day of hunting at the villa

Is the profile of the dominus hidden among the scenes depicted in the mosaics?

The capture of wild animals for the roman amphitheatre games

The senses tell the Vestibule

The prestige of the dominus is revealed through the wall frescoes

The senses tell the Quadrangular Peristyle

The protagonists of the mosaic and the military themed frescoes

The marble from the regions of the empire to decorate the basilica

A large colonnaded portico, a place of connection between the rooms

Auspicious symbols and perhaps the initials of the commissioner’s name decorate the mosaic of the apsidal room

Solemn and majestic architecture to welcome a high-ranking commissioner

Semi-public rooms

The senses tell the massage room

An official ceremony to welcome the Dominus

An individual who has attracted the attention of scholars

The senses tell the Basilica

The public and private rooms of the villa

A hidden meaning

The senses tell the monumental entrance