Thursday, January 30, 2014


The Latin writer Gaius Crispus Sallust (86/35 BC) had his Horti (villa with gardens) built here in an area formerly belonging to Julius Caesar. Its gardens were among the largest and richest of the Roman world
On the death of the writer it became property of his nephew Quintus and later of Augustus (27 BC/14). Since then the gardens remained in the imperial property and were enlarged and embellished many times
Many emperors chose it as their temporary home, as an alternative to the official residence on the Palatine Hill. Vespasian (69/79) stayed here often and Nerva (96/98) died here. The hard fighting that led to the victory of Vespasian's army took place here in 69
Adrian (117/138) and Aurelian (270/275) did some large restorations. The latter in particular built a PORTICUS MILIARENSIS, probably a complex of porch, garden and stables, where he used to ride horses. Other restorations were made in the third century
When in 410 there was the sack of Rome by the Goths, led by Alaric, who came right from the Porta Salaria (Salaria Gate), the Villa suffered serious damage and was never rebuilt, as Procopius wrote in the sixth century
The building seen today used to look probably similar to Canopus of Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli: in the center of the square, 14 meters (46 feet) below the present level, the remains have been excavated, resting on the hill behind and connected to other poorly preserved remains of buildings
The main part was a LARGE CIRCULAR ROOM (11.21 m - 36.7 feet - in diameter and 13.28 m - 43.5 feet - high), covered by a dome divided into wedges alternatingly concave and flat, a very rare pattern, found only in the Serapeum of Hadrian's Villa. In the walls there are three niches on each side, two of which were open as passages for side rooms. The remaining niches were closed a few years later and covered with marble incrustation, which also covered the walls. The floor was made of marble too, while the cupola and upper walls were decorated with stucco
There is also a RECTANGULAR VESTIBULE and other rooms
From the Villa comes the Sallustian Obelisk, now in front of Trinità dei Monti on top of the Spanish Steps, and its granite pedestal, now in the gardens of Aracoeli on Capitoline Hill. In addition, the marble relief so-called "Ludovisi Throne" and the great female marble head called "Acrolito Ludovisi", both at the Palazzo Altemps, maybe from spoils of war held in the nearby TEMPLE OF VENUS ERYCINA

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