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 prestige of the dominus is revealed through the wall frescoes

The mansio of Philosophiana. A stopping place

Semi-public rooms

The senses tell the private entrance to the spa

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

The possible celebration of a solemn event

A line of armed men for an important Dominus

A small room embellished with marble

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

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

The protagonists of the mosaic and the military themed frescoes

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

A dialogue between mythological and realistic scenes

An individual who has attracted the attention of scholars

The paths of virus, a reflection of the Dominus

The senses tell the Vestibule

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

An eloquent symbol: the signum

Worship of the Lares

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

The senses tell the Bi-Apsed room

An organic microcosm: the structure of the villa

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

The Latifundium

A view of the race from the imperial gallery

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

Outdoor breakfast

A day of hunting at the villa

Solemn and majestic architecture to welcome a high-ranking commissioner

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

The catalogue of animals

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

The senses tell the monumental entrance

An official ceremony to welcome the Dominus

The senses tell the Quadrangular Peristyle

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

The rural sacrifice

The protagonists of the mosaics

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

The senses tell the Sacellum of the Lares

The astral interpretation of the mosaic

The senses tell the Basilica

The senses tell the Tri-Apsed Triclinium

The capture of wild animals for the roman amphitheatre games

The public and private rooms of the villa

The senses tell the frigidarium

The mosaics of the late antiquity residence

A royal room housed the Dominus during his audiences

Form of greeting or ritual?

A small room used as a privileged entrance to the baths

The apotheosis of Hercules

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

The senses tell the massage room

The main nuclei of the Domus

A hidden meaning