A Roman villa was a country house for more wealthy people built in the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire. Pliny the Elder distinguished two kinds of villas near Rome: the villa urbana, a country seat that could be reached from Rome for a night or two; the empire contained many kinds of villas, not all of them lavishly appointed with mosaic floors and frescoes. In the provinces, any country house with some decorative features in the Roman style may be called a "villa" by modern scholars; some were pleasure houses such as those, like Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli, that were sited in the cool hills within easy reach of Rome or, like the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum, on picturesque sites overlooking the Bay of Naples. Some villas were more like the country houses of England or Poland, the visible seat of power of a local magnate, such as the famous palace rediscovered at Fishbourne in Sussex. Suburban villas on the edge of cities occurred, such as the Middle and Late Republican villas that encroached on the Campus Martius, at that time on the edge of Rome, which can be seen outside the city walls of Pompeii.
These early suburban villas, such as the one at Rome's Auditorium site or at Grottarossa in Rome, demonstrate the antiquity and heritage of the villa suburbana in Central Italy. It is possible that these early, suburban villas were in fact the seats of power of regional strongmen or heads of important families. A third type of villa provided the organisational centre of the large holdings called latifundia, which produced and exported agricultural produce. By the 4th century, villa could connote an agricultural holding: Jerome translated in the Gospel of Mark chorion, describing the olive grove of Gethsemane, with villa, without an inference that there were any dwellings there at all. Under the Empire a concentration of Imperial villas grew up near the Bay of Naples on the Isle of Capri, at Monte Circeo on the coast and at Antium. Wealthy Romans escaped the summer heat in the hills around Rome around Frascati. Cicero possessed no fewer than seven villas, the oldest of them, which he inherited, near Arpinum in Latium.
Pliny the Younger had three or four, of which the example near Laurentium is the best known from his descriptions. By the first century BC, the "classic" villa took many architectural forms, with many examples employing atrium or peristyle, for enclosed spaces open to light and air. Upper class, wealthy Roman citizens in the countryside around Rome and throughout the Empire lived in villa complexes, the accommodation for rural farms; the villa-complex consisted of three parts. The pars urbana where his family lived; this would be similar to the wealthy-person's in the city walls. The pars rustica where the chef and slaves of the villa lived; this was the living quarters for the farm's animals. There would be other rooms here that might be used as store rooms, a hospital and a prison; the villa fructuaria would be the storage rooms. These would be. Storage rooms here would have been used for oil, grain and any other produce of the villa. Other rooms in the villa might include an office, a temple for worship, several bedrooms, a dining room and a kitchen.
Villas were furnished with plumbed bathing facilities and many would have had an under-floor central heating known as the hypocaust. A villa might be quite palatial, such as the villas of the imperial period, built on seaside slopes overlooking the Gulf of Naples at Baiae. Smaller in the countryside non-commercial villas operated as self-supporting units, with associated farms, olive groves, vineyards. Roman writers refer with satisfaction to the self-sufficiency of their villas, where they drank their own wine and pressed their own oil, a used literary topos. An ideal Roman citizen was the independent farmer tilling his own land, the agricultural writers wanted to give their readers a chance to link themselves with their ancestors through this image of self-sufficient villas; the truth was not too far from the image, while the profit-oriented latifundia, large slave-run villas grew enough of all the basic foodstuffs to provide for their own consumption. The late Roman Republic witnessed an explosion of villa construction in Italy in the years following the dictatorship of Sulla.
In Etruria, the villa at Settefinestre was the centre of one of the latifundia that were involved in large-scale agricultural production. At Settefinestre and elsewhere, the central housing of such villas was not richly appointed. Other villas in the hinterland of Rome are interpreted in light of the agrarian treatises written by the elder Cato and Varro, all of whom sought to define the suitable lifestyle of conservative Romans, at least in idealistic terms. Large villas dominated the rural economy of the Po Valley and Sicily, operated in Gaul. Villas were centers of a variety of economic activity such as mining, pottery factories, or horse raising such as those found in northwestern Gaul. Villas specializing in the seagoing export of olive oil to Roman legions in Germany became a feature of the southern Iberian province of Hispania Baetica; some luxurious villas have bee
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