Images of villas in Antiquity

Images of villas have come down to us from Antiquity in the form of paintings that were part of wall murals, or as mosaic patterns. This theme is attested to on other media as well.

Many examples of these images have been unearthed in the region of Vesuvius. They were painted on the walls of villas as well as of urban dwellings and even in public baths. The villa theme, popular in the first century CE, features buildings with colonnades built along the shores of un-oceanlike bodies of water that are more like lakes or artificial reserves. Towers pierced with windows or fitted with terraces provide places from which the lovely landscape can be contemplated. These are not rural farm structures, but places that emphasise the elements that were essential for their sponsors.

The villa has pride of place in rural scenes on mosaics discovered in Roman Africa. The Dominus Julius mosaic discovered in Carthage depicts life on an estate and its owners. At the centre is an impressive multi-story structure with outbuildings. Apses in a wall in Tabarka, Tunisia, are decorated with three separate representations of villas. Distinctive buildings, each with its own individualised landscape, present typological elements that distinguish a pleasure villa from a specialised production centre or a multi-purpose farm.

Medias

Interactive document - A seaside villa

A seaside villa

Representation of a seaside villa on a painted panel.
Musée de Naples
Interactive document - A villa on a painted panel

A villa on a painted panel

Representation of a villa on a painted panel, Pompeii.
Cliché Jean-Pierre Brun
Interactive document - Dominus Julius mosaic

Dominus Julius mosaic

Mosaic from Carthage, late 4th century.
Collections: Musée du Bardo (Tunisia)
Interactive document - Reconstruction of the Dominus Julius villa

Reconstruction of the Dominus Julius villa

Hypothetical reconstruction of the Dominus Julius villa, as depicted on the mosaic.
After a text by Noël Duval
Interactive document - Pleasure villa

Pleasure villa

Mosaic (Tabarka, Tunisia) depicting a pleasure villa. Collections Musée du Bardo (Tunisia).
Collections: Musée du Bardo (Tunisia)
Interactive document - Reconstructions of the pleasure villa

Reconstructions of the pleasure villa

Two possible reconstructions of the pleasure villa depicted in the mosaic, after Sarnowski and Noël Duval.
Drawing by Y. Junius
Interactive document - Specialised farm

Specialised farm

Late Antique mosaic (Tabarka, Tunisia) depicting a farm specialising in wine production.
Collections: Musée du Bardo (Tunisia)
Interactive document - Multi-purpose farm

Multi-purpose farm

Late Antique mosaic (Tabarka, Tunisia) depicting a multi-purpose farm that has retained a residential appearance.
Collections: Musée du Bardo (Tunisia)
Interactive document - Reconstructions of a villa

Reconstructions of a villa

Two possible reconstructions of the pleasure villa depicted in the mosaic, after Sarnowski and Noël Duval.
Drawing Y. Junius