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Villa of the Shepherd

Description of the Villa

The Villa of the Shepherd owes its name to a small statue of a shepherd discovered in 1967 during excavation of the villa's piscina. The property stands on a ridge of the plateau of Varano, in a panoramic position not far from the Villa Arianna. The villa was first explored by Karl Weber between 1754 and 1759 and later by Pietro La Vega between 1775 and 1778 after which time the building was reburied. In 1967 the villa was rediscovered and partially excavated before a second reburial in 1970.
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The villa covers an extensive area, measuring approximately 19,000 square metres.
The ground plan of the villa is not straight forward but naturally breaks down into two distinct areas built on different axes at different times.
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The first part of the villa is made up of a series of rooms ranged round a central courtyard (a). On the western side of this courtyard is a baths complex (b) composed of an apodyterium, a caldarium, an adjoining kitchen area and hallway.
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In the middle of the large garden court is the piscina (f) near which the statue of the shepherd was found.
The statue itself (pictured right) is in marble, about 65 cm high, in Hellenistic style and portrays a shepherd dressed in rough skins, carrying a kid on his shoulders.
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In the south west corner of the court is a porch measuring approximately 10m by 2m, paved with black and white mosaic. In the same corner of the court were later found two doorways in brick, painted in red, which allowed access to a large room (g), possibly a triclinium. A nymphaeum was also uncovered with a small square in its centre in which was placed a marble labrum (pictured below).
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Recent studies have shown that the villa was constructed on three levels.  As a result of a series of landslides a number of substructures have been exposed that must have performed the dual function of containment of the ridge and support for the foundations of the complex.

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The second area consists of a rectangular garden court (c) bordered by a wall topped by reversed arches (pictured left) with a large semi-circular niche (d) on its south eastern side. Along the north west side of the court is a fenestrated cryptoporticus (e) over 145 metres long with windows looking out over the Bay of Naples. At the back of the cryptoporticus runs a long colonnaded portico.
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Together with the other villas that were constructed along the ridge of the plateau, the Villa of the Shepherd was directly connected to the sea by a series of ramps sloping down toward the beach.

The term 'villa' may be inappropriate as the exact purpose of the building is still in doubt. It has been suggested that the complex was actually a health spa due to the odd arrangement of rooms and open spaces and the distinct absence of a conventional floor plan.




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