Archaeoastronomy in the Villa Adriana at Tivoli
Archaeoastronomy in Hadrian’s Villa

Astronomic orientation means that a building or a town is oriented towards an astronomical event, for example the spot where the Sun is rising or setting during the days of the Solstice or the Equinox. There also are orientations towards the Moon phases, the most important constellations or special events such as the birth of an emperor or the date when he became emperor. Geographic orientation towards the cardinal points (north, south, east, west) is a completely different matter.

Astronomical orientation was studied in very few buildings: the Horologium Augusti, the Domus Aurea and the Pantheon, all located in Rome. Studies on the orientation of ancient roman towns have begun only in recent times.

Hadrian’s Villa has never been studied as far as archaeostronomy is concerned. The first discoveries, which remained unpublished, date back to 1988, when the american architects Robert Mangurian and Mary-Ann Ray discovered the light phenomena which occur in Roccabruna during Summer Solstice, within their Atelier Italia Project that surveyed the whole Villa between 1985 and 1994.

Our archaeoastronomical study discovered the orientation of the building of the Accademia, confirmed their discoveries in Roccabruna and found out that the whole Accademia Esplanade - the true Acropolis of the Villa - had an astronomical orientation.

These discoveries opened a new research path that is very important for a better understanding of the meaning of this part of the Villa.

Our research could never have been done without the help of Archaeoastronomer Giuseppe Veneziano of the Astronomical Observatory of Genova, Italy, of Maria D’Amico, architect specialized in mosaics, and of Elena Salvo, archaeologist, who helped during the the surveys with special instruments.

Architects Umberto Pavanello and Giorgia Andreatta made the archaeometric survey in Roccabruna and Accademia.

I am very grateful to them all for their help and cooperation.