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The Meaning of the Individual Buildings

The Canopus and Temple of Serapis
The Canopus and Temple of Serapis

The Villa Hadriana was renowned already in antiquity for its rich collection of buildings associated with famous places or monuments from other parts of the empire.

Such associations were very common among wealthy Romans, at least from the first century BCE onward. It was a way of displaying culture and learnedness. Marcus Tullius Cicero had, in his villa in Tusculum, buildings called Lyceum and Academia, referring to the famous philosophical schools of ancient Greece. Augustus had in his residence on the Palatine Hill in Rome an area called Syracusa because it was inspired by a part of the palace of Dionysios of Syracuse.

The plan for Hadrian's villa followed similar ideas. Due to the dispersion of the artistic elements of the villa it is not always possible to identify the purpose or idea behind a building, but some structures are very characteristic.

The Poikile has been name so, because it has been associated with the Greek "Stoa Poikile", painted colonnade, which was a famous monument in ancient Athens.

The Canopus refers to an artificial canal that connected the Egyptian city of Canopus in the Nile delta with Alexandria. The city Canopus was famous for its Temple of Serapis, which in Hadrian's Villa is identified with the structure at the end of the lake. The Canopus was built before Hadrian's first journey to Egypt, so it cannot be said to be a reconstruction of something he had seen on this travels.

The identification of the Academia in the Villa Hadriana is probably more insecure, as very little is left of the buildings in question.

There were probably more such associations in the ancient villa which we can no longer discern.

The representation of a foreign monument in a Roman villa is not meant to copy the physical appearance of the monument, but rather to represent the values and ideas of the original. Hence a Lyceum in a Roman villa would be a place of philosophical discussions, not an exact replica of the building in Greece. The owner of the villa might not even have seen the real Lyceum. The same holds for the Villa Hadriana. The "foreign" buildings represent ideas, they are not copies.

This article has been split into 7 separate sections. Use the menu below to jump to another section.

  1. Introduction
  2. The Meaning of the Individual Buildings
  3. The Building Process
  4. Works of Art and Building Materials
  5. The Villa after Hadrian
  6. Literature and Links
  7. Photographs

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This page is linked under the names "Hadrian's Villa", "Villa of Hadrian", "Villa Hadriana", "Villa Adriana" and "Hadrians Villa".

Copyright © 2004 René Seindal, last changed 2004-10-19

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