Hall of the private apartment named after the “small hunt”

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

A miniature forest

Beyond the curtain covering the entrance to this reception room, located in the private area of the Peristyle, the eye was caught by the multitude of colours of the mosaic tiles on the floor, as it is today. It depicts all the stages of hunting party with dogs involving the dominus with his family and some servants. The scenery is that of the rich and lush landscape that surrounded the late antique residence, with the species of trees present in the woods at that time. Starting from the top, a man and two greyhounds are depicted advancing in the hunt with agility. A few cypresses hide the flight of a fox being chased, with an increasingly dynamic rhythm, by other hounds. Notice the rendering of movement that is also evident in the swelling of the hunter’s purple cloak.

Below, the action seems to stop with the celebration of a country sacrifice with high-ranking people. Accompanied by servants, they are arranged near an altar placed in front of the effigy of Diana, goddess of the hunt. The bright colours of the protagonists’ robes stand out for their colourful rendering! If we look down a little further, an open-air breakfast occupies much of the area between two registers. The atmosphere is relaxed as the protagonists, surrounded by servants busy with other work, sit on a large semi-circular sofa in front of the canteen, sheltered by a red curtain. If we look down again, the scene becomes even more dynamic with fox and hare hunting. A hunter on horseback has spotted the hare and is preparing to shoot it. At the end of this magnificent glimpse into life in the villa, deer and wild boar hunting is depicted. In a more rocky and less verdant natural setting, it is the setting for the more demanding moments of this activity, reserved for the family of the dominus and his entourage.

Sound of the hunt

The first scene is portrayed in such detail that it feels like you can hear the hounds pacing over the sloping woodland and the hunters’ footsteps making their way through the agave-like bushes. In the near distance you can hear the screeching of a hawk resting on the shoulder of a bird catcher, waiting for visible prey, while a lively crackle comes from the brazier of an altar where resin and incense are burning for the country sacrifice in front of a statue of Diana, the goddess of the hunt. Below, the representation of an open-air breakfast seems to be animated by the voices of the diners and the trampling of horses’ hooves, resting under the trees.

After resting, the hunt resumes in the scenes below. The breath of a dark-coated hound becomes laboured. It has its jaws wide open in an attempt to catch a fox, before it disappears among the rocks and, at the same time, a hare hides in a bush, causing the leaves to rustle loudly.

The landscape of the scenes below is less flourishing and the footsteps of the hunters and their steeds become more muted. The beaten earth muffles the gallop of three horses, ridden by horsemen in pursuit of three large deer, whose long antlers are now destined to become entangled in the mesh of a large net. In a patch of marshland, a wild boar is heard screeching, now hunted by dogs and hunters, after having wounded a man lying on the ground with his broken spear.

Woodland atmospheres between hunting, rituals and refreshments

As well as being a place of otium for the hunting parties of the dominus and his family, the wood surrounding the villa was home to lush vegetation consisting of a wide variety of tree species of which useful evidence has been found even today, thanks to specific research.

They are realistically represented in this room’s mosaic floor and, if we think back in time, we can almost smell the caramelised scent of the holm oaks and the aromatic fruits of the carob and juniper trees. The intense smell of resins and incense, burnt on the altar in front of the effigy of Diana, spreads through the air as if to underline the importance of the propitiatory rite that accompanied the art of hunting. The scene in the central part of the mosaic conveys to the observer the tranquillity of an open-air banquet, imbued with the spicy smells coming from the table and the equally pleasant smells of the food in the baskets.


Semi-public rooms

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

Form of greeting or ritual?

The senses tell the Tri-Apsed Triclinium

The main nuclei of the Domus

The senses tell the Basilica

The Latifundium

A day of hunting at the villa

A royal room housed the Dominus during his audiences

The possible celebration of a solemn event

The astral interpretation of the mosaic

The mosaics of the late antiquity residence

A dialogue between mythological and realistic scenes

A line of armed men for an important Dominus

The senses tell the Quadrangular Peristyle

A view of the race from the imperial gallery

The senses tell the frigidarium

An individual who has attracted the attention of scholars

Solemn and majestic architecture to welcome a high-ranking commissioner

The public and private rooms of the villa

An official ceremony to welcome the Dominus

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

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

The paths of virus, a reflection of the Dominus

The capture of wild animals for the roman amphitheatre games

A small room embellished with marble

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

A hidden meaning

The catalogue of animals

The senses tell the Bi-Apsed room

The prestige of the dominus is revealed through the wall frescoes

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

The senses tell the monumental entrance

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

The protagonists of the mosaic and the military themed frescoes

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

A small room used as a privileged entrance to the baths

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

The mansio of Philosophiana. A stopping place

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

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

The senses tell the Vestibule

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

Outdoor breakfast

The rural sacrifice

An eloquent symbol: the signum

An organic microcosm: the structure of the villa

The apotheosis of Hercules

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

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

Worship of the Lares

The protagonists of the mosaics

The senses tell the private entrance to the spa

The senses tell the Sacellum of the Lares

The senses tell the massage room