The remains of the Roman luxury villa del Casale from the 4th century are among the most important examples of Sicily from Roman times. The exceptionally well-preserved floor mosaics (including the »bikini girl« mosaic) are outstanding. The facility extends to around 1.5 hectares. Each of the four living areas is on its own level due to the hillside location of the property.
Villa of Casale: facts
|Official title:||Roman villa of Casale (Sicily) with its mosaics|
|Cultural monument:||Excavation of a villa complex with a central fountain courtyard in the form of a peristyle and around 50 rooms such as the Great Triclinium, the thermal baths and the throne room as well as mosaics on a floor area of around 3500 m²; in room 26 a mosaic with a hunting scene and in room 28 the famous so-called “bikini girls”|
|Location:||Villa Romana del Casale (Contrada Casale), southwest of Piazza Armerina|
|Meaning:||one of the best preserved and most luxurious Roman villas|
Villa of Casale: history
|Beginning of the 4th century||built for previously unknown owners|
|since 1950-1954; 1970; 1983-1985||Excavations|
Of gods, lovers and…
It is thanks to the mud that the world has preserved this gigantic stone picture book. It tells of times long past, of ancient splendor, of high culture and indescribable luxury. It tells of domestic life and stately hunting, of legends and games. On its pages there are images of giants, gods and mythical creatures. The representations, made up of millions of colored cubes, tell of youth and beauty, of personal hygiene and fitness training, of healthy eating and sporting competitions. The observer is equally amazed at the modernity of late Roman antiquity and at the strangely antiquity in the pictures that were once trampled underfoot.
Then as now, visitors are greeted by the cooling freshness of a fertile little valley. A villa was built at the foot of the Mangone Mountain in late Roman times. Its origin is still mysterious today. Scientists argue about the identity of the builder as well as the purpose of the villa and the question of why such a villa was built right in the heart of Sicily, far away from the centers of the Roman Empire. Was it Emperor Maximianus Herculius who retired here after his resignation? Perhaps a high-ranking officer and landowner with good connections to the Roman ruling family had the facility built? Was it a permanent residence or was it only intended as a holiday villa for hunting amusements and was it built in the interior of the big island, which is rich in prey?
According to militarynous, the construction site was chosen with care: at the entrance you can see the fresh water pipe fed by a small river, which not only fed the extensive bathing rooms, the sweat rooms and the fountains, but also the refined and luxuriously constructed toilets and ensured perfect hygiene. Personal hygiene was particularly important to the residents: the pictures in the book spread out on the floor show masseurs with oil cans, as well as lifeguards and boys with fresh towels. Opposite, on the other side of the columned courtyard, is the room with the famous »bikini girls«, women doing gymnastics in antique two-piece suits. In addition to the surprisingly familiar swimwear, the ideal of women at the time also catches the eye: sporty and muscular, almost masculine, slim legs.
Books would have to be written to tell all the stories of the long “Corridor of the Great Hunt” alone. Pages after pages of printed paper would be needed to describe the many animals hunted, captured, tied up, hunted and hunted. In one representation, even man himself is the prey. He is trapped in a cage and guarded by an ancient animal with claws: an allegory – man as a destroyer of nature who is himself captured. A huge zoo unfolds at the feet of the visitors: oxen, deer, wild boars and hares, but also tigers, elephants, rhinos, lions and gazelles, at the sight of which the viewer notices that Sicily is only a few kilometers from the north coast of the Black Continent away. With Odysseus, who hands the somewhat stupid-looking Polyphemus the wine goblet, is homage to the ancient world of legends, it is also part of Casale’s picture book. And of course, finally, the hymn to Eros should not be missing as the happy ending of this unique journey into the past: a young couple in such a magical embrace that one is torn between looking at this beauty and the wish that the two lovers are not unnecessarily disturbing.
In 1161, a devastating flood put a coat of mud over lovers and hunting scenes, bikini girls and the bathhouse and preserved them perfectly for centuries. Today the mosaics of Villa Casale are like a window through which one can look into antiquity.