Triapsidal Triclinium

The senses tell the Tri-Apsed Triclinium

A large room for a sumptuous banquet

The opulent and dynamic structure of the great hall is characterised by a square central plan into which three large apses are inserted, originally introduced by pairs of columns. The room was used for official banquets, during which special semi-circular beds, known as stibadia, were placed in the apses to accommodate the many guests. The various episodes narrated in the mosaics are linked by the common theme of the victory of virtue over evil, carried out by Hercules and Dionysus against monstrous and violent creatures. The choice of the pieces to be performed originates from a precise desire to communicate edifying messages and to eternalise the dominus of the villa on the same level as the deeds performed by the heroes. When you enter this room, you can feel the atmosphere that accompanied the preparation of dinner, the most important meal, which took place in the ninth hour during the warmer months. The scene seems to come back to life. The sun is disappearing over the horizon and, with its last rays, it illuminates a group of musicians and an educated servant with a gaunt face, who recites verses in Latin, starting the banquet. The servant butler, the nomenclator, has already announced the entry of the dominus and his guests, among whom are high-ranking figures. Three ministratores go, separately, to each apse to serve steaming food to great decorative effect, while other servants fill cups with wine. Each course is a true choreography, skilfully devised by the structor, who is responsible for the scenic effect that the food must evoke. The three-lobed hall represents, at this moment, different parts of the world: the stibadia on which the guests are lying are the Earth, the ceiling leads back to the sky, while the floor is connected to the world of the dead.

Voices and melodies between courses

An overlapping of voices fills the atmosphere of this vast room. The importance of the mythological depictions in the floor mosaics, imbued with celebratory meanings, is dissipated by the banter of the guests who, between courses, focus on ephemeral speeches, war stories and satirical topics.

From the centre of the hall, against a floor scene depicting the labours of Hercules, jugglers invade the room and interrupt the gentle melody of a zither player reciting poetic verses. The banquet is populated by dancers, who enliven the dinner with the sound of tambourines after an evocative entrance from the ovoid portico, caressed by the last rays of the sunset. Everything seems to take the dominus and his guests away from the whirlwind life of Rome.


A feast of aromas

The large triclinium becomes a stage imbued with a multitude of scents. A senator has taken his seat to the left of the dominus and is greeted by the intense fragrance of oriental essences, which sprinkles the clothes of a young woman close by. Distinguishing the aroma of the food becomes difficult and the focus seems to be on the sweet notes of seduction. As soon as they lie down on the large semi-circular sofas, after washing their hands with water mixed with rose petals, the diners are met with the essences of the oils sprinkled on the table where they are eating. To accompany the beginning of the banquet, some doves take flight and spread, with the beating of their wings, water mist enriched with perfumed oil. The entrance to the first courses is truly scenic, with a succession of culinary “triumphs”, and the smell of the dishes served recalls local products and those derived from fishing. All are extensively described in various rooms of the late antique residence, as in a large map of known species in the 4th century AD. The sweet aroma of honey is combined with the salty notes of some foods marked by a kaleidoscopic burst of aromatic plants.

Fantasies for the palate

The attention to the imaginative decoration of the dishes does not neglect the careful layering of flavours. While the diners are distracted by the arduous exercise of two acrobats who seem to have distracted them from conversations and food, the complex banquet is enriched with new courses. The wine mixed with honey, which accompanies the starter, is followed by the evocative entry of a dish adorned with a yellow sauce made from saffron and eggs, reminiscent of the warm colours of the African desert. The wife of a member of the senatorial aristocracy, with her fancy clothes and distinctive ‘helmeted’ hair, focuses her attention on a tray containing a large lobster with claws sprinkled with flowers and stuffed with caviar. There is no shortage of meat, presented with various types of stuffing enriched with spices of different origins. The tables set in the triclinium of the villa become a reflection of distant cultures, acquired in the territories conquered during the imperial period and embellished by an ever-present scenic taste.

Prestige through furniture

Have you ever wondered how the Romans ate? Each banquet included at least seven courses, eaten on semi-circular sofas covered in precious fabrics.

Go back in time and imagine that you are in the middle of the Triclinium. Against the mythological backdrop of the floor, representing the labours of Hercules, the diners, lying on stibadia, pick up their food with their right hand while their left hand, resting on a soft cushion, holds their plate. The flickering light of the torches hanging on the walls and the reverberation of the fire rising from the forged metal braziers hit various types of knives and spoons arranged on the table. A servant is about to offer the guests small pieces of pork on a tray, whose beautiful workmanship distracts attention from the content of the dish.  The wine is poured into cups that reflect the opulent atmosphere that fills the room, like mirrors. The women, dressed in fashionable clothes with fine fabrics and pearl inlays, wash their hands with fresh, perfumed water that comes out of silver jugs held by servants. The large tri-apsed hall represents a microcosm in which the power of the dominus is reflected.


A hidden meaning

The rural sacrifice

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

Semi-public rooms

An organic microcosm: the structure of the villa

A view of the race from the imperial gallery

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

The catalogue of animals

A small room used as a privileged entrance to the baths

The protagonists of the mosaic and the military themed frescoes

A small room embellished with marble

The senses tell the frigidarium

The paths of virus, a reflection of the Dominus

Worship of the Lares

The senses tell the Tri-Apsed Triclinium

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

Solemn and majestic architecture to welcome a high-ranking commissioner

The senses tell the Basilica

The astral interpretation of the mosaic

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

A dialogue between mythological and realistic scenes

An eloquent symbol: the signum

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

A royal room housed the Dominus during his audiences

The senses tell the Vestibule

The mosaics of the late antiquity residence

The apotheosis of Hercules

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

A day of hunting at the villa

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

A line of armed men for an important Dominus

An official ceremony to welcome the Dominus

The mansio of Philosophiana. A stopping place

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

The senses tell the massage room

The capture of wild animals for the roman amphitheatre games

Form of greeting or ritual?

The protagonists of the mosaics

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

The senses tell the Bi-Apsed room

The main nuclei of the Domus

The public and private rooms of the villa

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

The possible celebration of a solemn event

The prestige of the dominus is revealed through the wall frescoes

The senses tell the monumental entrance

The senses tell the Sacellum of the Lares

The senses tell the private entrance to the spa

The senses tell the Quadrangular Peristyle

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

The Latifundium

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

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

Outdoor breakfast

An individual who has attracted the attention of scholars