Itinerary B
Piazza Armerina

[5] 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.