The senses tell the Basilica

majestic classroom that enhances the profile of the Dominus

We enter this imposing rectangular room which, with its elevated position, dominates the entire late antique residence. It was used by the dominus as an assembly hall because, in the centre of the apse, there was a seat from which the lord would converse with his guests.

The vaulted ceiling above it was covered with golden mosaic tiles and brilliant glass pastes, creating a particularly atmospheric setting for those who approached it. In reality, the architecture of the basilica and the marble it was decorated with must have reflected the high social rank of its owner. The floor of the hall, which is now very fragmented, contains only part of the marble slabs that it was made of. It contains large rectangular squares composed of inlaid designs in which antique red porphyry, cipolin green and antique green, and Phrygian marble stand out. In the tondos, you can see porphyry, the yellow of Numidian marble and the green of Tessalic marble, white and black tiger marble, as well as other valuable varieties. At the time, the hall’s side walls also featured large panels inlaid with colourful marble, symmetrically placed on a covering of grey veined marble that also covered the apse under the gaze of a statue of Hercules located in the centre, in a niche.

Just imagine how the rays of sunlight, which entered through the large side windows, managed to spread an aura of solemnity in this grandiose place of representation. The dominus received the administrators of the fundus, the settlers, the traders and the clientes there to discuss business related, above all, to the management and production of the latifundium, in an atmosphere far removed from the audiences held in the Giulia Basilica in the Forum of Rome. From the wide entrance staircase, guarded by two huge red granite columns, those who were called to appear before the lord of the manor after waiting in the corridor of the “great hunt” proceeded with cautious steps.

A classroom embellished with marble from the regions of the Empire

The great hall is the most important feature of the main part of the Late Antique residence. However, because of its size, it gives the impression that you are entering a very different environment compared to the intimate dimensions of the other places facing the quadrangular peristyle. The glow of the fire from the braziers and the soft light coming in through the high windows reflected off the grandiose coloured marble inlays lining the walls, so much so that they counteracted the feeling of coldness which they gave to the touch. Replacing the wall decoration, which has now disappeared, is a layer of cocciopesto and bricks once used to fix the slabs.

The wood covering the large coffered ceiling of the room, made of a trussed supporting structure, warms the atmosphere of this formal space of the villa, open to dialogue with the outside world.

Dialogues before the hearing

A small group of people whisper and wait their turn just before the steps leading up to the basilica: the dominus has just entered, with his retinue, heading towards the apse containing his seat. A man hurriedly unrolls the last documents, before entering the interior of the large hall. The sound of shuffling paper seems to set the talks in motion. The echo of the voices disperses in the immense space, so much so that it becomes a faint sound with the crackling of the flames of the braziers and torches in the background. The dominus‘s return from Rome, after a long time, is said to have required more time for hearings, and the pause at the foot of the basilica invited visitors to immerse themselves in the tranquillity of the garden, inhabited by various types of birds cooling off amidst the spouts of the three-basin fountain.

An individual who has attracted the attention of scholars

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

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

A line of armed men for an important Dominus

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

The senses tell the monumental entrance

A royal room housed the Dominus during his audiences

The protagonists of the mosaic and the military themed frescoes

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

The senses tell the Sacellum of the Lares

The main nuclei of the Domus

A view of the race from the imperial gallery

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

An official ceremony to welcome the Dominus

The mosaics of the late antiquity residence

The senses tell the Vestibule

The astral interpretation of the mosaic

Solemn and majestic architecture to welcome a high-ranking commissioner

The senses tell the Basilica

Form of greeting or ritual?

Semi-public rooms

A hidden meaning

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

The rural sacrifice

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

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

An organic microcosm: the structure of the villa

The senses tell the Tri-Apsed Triclinium

The senses tell the frigidarium

The paths of virus, a reflection of the Dominus

The Latifundium

Worship of the Lares

The senses tell the Bi-Apsed room

Outdoor breakfast

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

An eloquent symbol: the signum

The prestige of the dominus is revealed through the wall frescoes

A small room used as a privileged entrance to the baths

The apotheosis of Hercules

The mansio of Philosophiana. A stopping place

A small room embellished with marble

A day of hunting at the villa

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

The senses tell the private entrance to the spa

The protagonists of the mosaics

The catalogue of animals

The senses tell the Quadrangular Peristyle

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

A dialogue between mythological and realistic scenes

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

The public and private rooms of the villa

The senses tell the massage room

The possible celebration of a solemn event

The capture of wild animals for the roman amphitheatre games

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