Hadrian's Villa--page 3 (of nine pages): Maritime Theater

Architect unknown; it is likely that Hadrian participated in the design and planning of his villa
early 2nd century CE

Included on this site are the following areas of the villa:
page 1: the Pecile and the Heliocaminus Bath
page 2: areas of or near the Imperial Palace, including the Building with Doric Pillars
page 3: Maritime Theater
page 4: Philosophers' Chamber and Greek and Roman Libraries
page 5: Piazza d'Oro
page 6: Building with Fishpond and Large Baths
page 7: Praetorium, Small Baths and Vestibule, Nymphaeum with three Exedra
page 8: the Canopus
page 9: the Serapeum and the Temple of Venus

Maritime Theater

This unique building consists of a circular Ionic portico, probably once barrel-vaulted, then a moat that surrounds a small circular island. Marine friezes were discovered here, thus the modern name of this structure. This was a sort of villa within the villa and provided a retreat from daily life.
From the external portico, one could go to the Courtyard of the Greek library or, on the opposite side, to the Philosophers' Chamber.
The photograph to the right shows the cement bridge (one of two) crossing the moat; however, in Hadrian's time wooden ramps, which could be removed, were used; thus the island retreat appeared inaccessible.
Several rooms have been identified on the island--bedrooms, a small bath complex, and a latrine.
Several researchers have also suggested that this unique structure had cosmological significance with the central island representing earth, surrounded by water--an image for the primordial ocean. With the concentric circles the building becomes an image of the cosmos--the imago mundi. See especially Henri Stieren, noted below.

Continue to page 4.

Work Cited and/or Consulted:
Benedetta Adembri. Hadrian's Villa [official guidebook]. Milan: Electa, 2000.
Nicoletto Lanciano. Hadrian's Villa: between heaven and earth. Rome: Apeiron, 2005.
Henri Stierlin. The Roman Empire. Volume One: From the Etruscans to the Decline of the Roman Empire. Köln: Taschen, 1996.

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© 2005 Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site), scanned, and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. They are not available for commercial purposes.

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