Description of the Villa
The villa was first excavated by Karl Weber between 1757 and 1762 and was named the 'first complex',
to distinguish it from the 'second complex', a neighbouring villa
separated from the first by a narrow lane. After the removal of the best
furnishings and frescoes, the villa was reburied.
Excavations resumed in 1950 and it was during this time that the villa
was named Arianna after a fresco on the far wall of the grand triclinium
depicting the mythological scene of Ariadne abandoned by Theseus.
The villa has an unconventional layout, due in part to its continuous development
but also to the sloping nature of the site. As much of the building is still buried, the original floor-plan is quite difficult to interpret. Certainly
the main range of rooms was at the front of the highest of a series of
terraces; some of these rooms featured views both of the sea on one
side and of the mountains on the other. There was also a long tunnel (g) leading from the stables and farm courts (h) under the residential quarters to the shore.
villa's fine frescoes, including those of Diana
(pictured top right) and Flora (pictured opposite) are matched by
the splendid flooring, with elegant mosaics offering an extensive
range of black and white decorative motifs.
atrium (a) (pictured above) and the surrounding rooms date from the
late Republican period. The atrium has an impluvium set in the centre of
black and white mosaic floor. The floor has a broad white border set
round the sides of the room and framing the impluvium. The walls are
decorated in the third style on a red and black ground.
rooms at the entrance to the atrium retain much of their second style
decoration which is based on architectural illusion and takes the form
of fluted Ionic columns set on a raised wall supporting a coffered ceiling
Some of the most important
frescoes of ancient Stabiae were found in the adjoining cubicula. Most
of them were removed during the Bourbon period and can now be seen in
Archaeological Museum of Naples. They include frescoes of Medea, Leda
and the Swan, Flora (pictured above right) and the Cupid Vendor
(pictured below), which depicts a
seated matron, to whom an elderly courtesan seated opposite proffers a
winged Cupid, lifted from a birdcage by the wings as if it were a chicken being
sold for dinner.
grand triclinium and surrounding rooms (d) date from the middle of the
first century AD. The
triclinium (pictured below) is richly decorated in the fourth style
with large mythological scenes framed in blue on a yellow and red ground
above a lower red and black decorative frieze.
smaller rooms around the triclinium have walls decorated in reds or
yellows with minimalist decor composed of cupids, flying figures,
miniature landscapes and medallions containing busts. One of these rooms
has an unusual tapestry or 'tiled' pattern (pictured below).
|The Villa Arianna is one of the oldest villas in Stabiae, dating from the second century BC.
It is situated on the western hills of Varano
, in a clifftop position overlooking the Bay of Naples. The exact
extent of the villa may never be determined, as large parts of the rooms
nearest the sea have collapsed down the cliff, but an initial survey
carried out by tunnel in Bourbon times produced a plan which covered an
area of over 2500 sq.m. Including the large palaestra to the west the total area must be in the order of 11,000 sq.m.
the northern side of the atrium is the tablinum. On the atrium's
southern side the doorway originally opened onto a square peristyle (c)
which was excavated during
the Bourbon period but was subsequently reburied and has not yet been
re-explored..... The central panel on the rear wall features Ariadne abandoned by Theseus on the island of Naxos (pictured left).
In the same room are also the frescoes of Lycurgus and Ambrosia on the
east wall, and Hippolytus and Phaedra (pictured above) on the west.
Outwith the central panels the decoration contains many fine details
such as that pictured below.
a red decorative frieze the 'tiles' contain painted female figures and
putti in a pattern that is repeated every four rows (pictured left). The
first row or band features alternating female figures and birds,
followed by birds and flowers in the second, flowers and medallions in
the third with a final row featuring medallions interspersed with roses.Nearby
are two diaetae placed either side of a summer triclinium (e). Both
diaetae are decorated in the fourth style with a mixture of landscapes
and wildlife including crickets, birds and butterflies.
palaestra (f) is located at the
west end of the villa and was added to the building shortly before the
eruption of AD79, probably between AD60 and AD70. It was about 104
metres long by 81 metres wide, giving it a perimeter of about 1200 Roman
feet, or 2 stadia, the recommended size of a public palaestra as set
out by Vitruvius in his Ten Books on Architecture (Book V, chapter IX - 'The Palaestra'). The open area was surrounded by a colonnade (pictured left) composed of over 100 columns covered in white stucco. ..In
a large garden was found lying within the palaestra. During 2009 the
entire garden area was cleared of volcanic debris and the area gridded
to allow the plotting of plant beds, shrubs and trees as well as garden
furniture (wells, cisterns and curbing for beds).
The study is on-going and it is hoped that in time they will be able to
identify the plants and trees that were growing at the time of the
villa had its own private bath suite (i) (pictured left). Although
smaller than those found in other villas in Stabiae, the suite still had
the full compliment of tepidarium, caldarium and frigidarium. There are also
numerous service areas as well as stables and farm buildings (h) at the south eastern limit of the property.