Luxurious imperial villa from the first century CE
The Villa after Hadrian
The Villa Hadriana remained in use after the death of Hadrian in 138 CE. Antoninus Pius, Hadrian's adopted successor, used the villa, and so did Marcus Aurelius. The villa were also used in the early 3rd century under the Severans, as later wall paintings dating from the reign of Septimius Severus have been found.
Diocletian, who ruled at the end of the 3rd century, used the villa and found great pleasure in it, but his successor Constantine I, did not. During his reign works of art and other values were taken away, maybe to adorn the palaces of Constantine's new capital, Constantinopolis (Byzantium or Constantinople, later Istanbul in Turkey).
After Constantine the villa was abandoned and fell in ruin, but the location or the identity of the villa was never forgotten.
The despoliation of the palace started already in late antiquity and continued for one and a half millennia, almost until not one piece of marble of any value was left untouched.
Much of the marble were removed or burnt to lime in the middle ages, and it is likely the site served as a quarry for easily recycled building material for much of the period.
Gradually many of the buildings collapsed and much of the complex was covered with debris and earth, but in the 17th and 18th centuries the villa was systematically despoiled of much of the remaining treasures. The land of which the villa stood was divided into many separate properties, and the owners removed anything of value, and statues and mosaics were dispersed in much of Europe. Quite a bit of the artistic heritage ended up in the papal collections and can now be enjoyed in the Vatican Museums and the Capitoline Museums.
Some spectacular finds added much to the fame of the site, such as the discovery of the Furietti Centaurs and the Mosaic with Drinking Doves, found in the Academia by the cardinal Furietti in 1736. Another fortunate find was a cache of statues located in a pond S. of the hill, by the painter and art dealer Gavin Hamilton in the late 18th century. The statues were apparently stashed away to be burnt to lime, but abandoned and later forgotten when the area was invaded by water.
Real excavations only started in the late 19th century, after the unification of Italy. Since then much of the area of the Villa Hadriana has been excavated, in part by the Italian archaeological authorities, in part by the various foreign academies in Rome.
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