State of the Art of the Villa
Villa Hadriana has never been excavated stratigraphically, most of the excavations were mere treasure hunting or, most recently, small explorations, mechanical digs, or cleaning. This is true also for recent excavations such as those held by Aurigemma in the Canopus in 1950, where unfortunately stratigraphy was completely ignored. We do not have information about the finds, or the final phases of the life of the Villa, even if there are signs of late antique re-use. For the greatest part of the sculptures, mosaics and other objects found there, we just have a generical attribution to the Villa but do not know the exact finding-spot. Many finds have been lost or disappeared during more than five centuries of activity.
As the following list will show, there still is an enormous amount of work to do in Villa Hadriana, because it has never been studyied with modern scientific techniques and methods. Just think of what could be done today with the help of archaeometry, thermography, geo-radar, remote sensing, chemical and phisical analysis, to name a few. There is not a comprehensive data-base collecting all existing information on the Villa – an enormous wealth of data not easily accessible to scholars and absolutely unmanageable without computers.
Map and Plans
(Names of authors and date are listed below, in the General Bibliography section of this site)
Besides the antique plans by Contini (1668) and Piranesi (1781), there are few general complete maps, and other partial maps limited to single buildings. To the first group belong the general map by Reina and the Engineer's School (1906), by Rakob (1973) and Salza (1982), whose scale is very small and where are not shown the building techniques or the restorations.
Single building plans were edited by Winnefeld (1895), Gusman (1904), Lugli (1927, 1932 and 1940 - the first to show building techinques), Kähler (1950), Rakob (1967), Giuliani (1975), Verduchi (1975), and later on by Hoffmann (1980), Ueblacker (1985), Mari-Reggiani-Righi (2001) and Righi (2001).
In its review on the most recent books on the Villa, Packer (1998) pointed out that the plans of the same building can differ in the texts he read, De Franceschini (1991), Guidobaldi (1994) and MacDonald Pinto (1995).
Still does not exist a complete general and updated map, showing the links between the various buildings, the subterranean road and passageways system, the quotas and the rise of the buildings, together with the building techniques, restorations, and various types of pavements and wall revetments.
The studies by Lugli (1927 and 1932) are still the only ones. Then there is the survey with catalogue entries by De Franceschini (1991). There is no comprehensive study of the building techniques dating from republican times (I century B.C.) to the late empire, nor a diachronic map showing their distribution and building phases of the Villa.
Brick stamps are very important because they date the building phases or the restorations of the walls. The only study is still the one by Bloch (1937) which needs to be updated with information coming from recent excavation and discoveries.
Two comprehensive studies: the one by De Franceschini (1991) is on all pavement types in all accessible buildings. Guidobaldi (1994) limited himself to opus sectile marble pavements and just in some of the buildings, but its reconstruction are hypotetical and not supported by a scientifically reliable method. There also are various articles on single buildings providing information on their pavements. Still missing a general map showing the distribution of the various types of pavements.
The study of pavement types and their distribution allowed De Franceschini (1991) to single out a consistent hierarchy corresponding to the different use of the buildings. Opus sectile marble pavements and polychrome mosaics were limited to the 'noble' buildings, where the Emperor lived. Black and white mosaic pavements, with geometric or vegetal patterns, were used for the decoration of secondary buildings, for high ranking personnel. Unrefined and rough pavements such as opus spicatum, coccio pisto or brick were used in the servant's quarters, which were sometimes subterranean.
There is no comprehensive study on the subject, just articles on single buildings: Wirth (1929), Sear (1977), Neuerburg (1965) and Joyce (1989). The few preserved frescoes still have to be analysed, documented and restored. There is no general study on wall marble revetments (Bruto 1990): in many buildings the holes of the grappe (bronze L shaped nails) are well preserved and visible, and would allow the reconstruction of the decorative scheme of the marble panels.
Very little information on stucco ceilings is available in Ponce (1789), Wadsworth (1924), Mielsch (1975), and Joyce (1989). Many stucco ceilings are still unpublished and unknown, need to be studied, catalogued and restored. The same goes for mosaics and 'tartari' (pseudo grotto). There is no general plan showing the distribution of the various revetments.
In 2002 the University of Trento with professor Mariette de Vos and Reda Attoui begun the study of the stucco ceilings preserved in one of the surviving building of the Palestra.
Wall revetments followed the same hierarchy of pavements. Marble revetment was coupled only with opus sectile or polycrome mosaic pavements, in the emperor's noble quarters. In secondary quarters there were just frescoes, and in the servant's quarters sometimes not even plaster.
A complete study on the Villa's water supply system is still missing. Since the Villa had a general leaning from south to north, water must have come from south; the difference of level gave it impulse to supply waterworks, thermae, nymphaea and water basins. In the area of the Accademia are still visible some parts of an aqueduct, which was probably linked to one of the many public aqueducts that brought water towards Rome, drawing it from the Aniene river at Tivoli.
In the Villa were found some cisterns, about which there are some articles by Neuerburg (1965) and Ehrlich (1989). Salza (1989, 1998, 2000) and Manderscheid (2000) deal with the water supply of the Villa.
Water had a very important role in the magnificent decoration of the Villa: water basins, fountains and nymphaea were scattered at every corner. Wealth and abundance of water were an aspect of luxury.
Thermal and winter heating plants
There is no comprehensive study on thermal plants in the Villa, which were at least four: the small therma in the Teatro Marittimo, the Great Baths, the Small Baths and the Terme with Heliocaminus, which were studied in detail by Verduchi (1985) and Manderscheid (2000). A fifth thermal plant supposedly was in the area of the Accademia, according to ancient sources. It is important to point out that the Villa also featured non-thermal heating plants, which were used in winter in very few buildings such ad the Greek Libary, the Casino with Semicircular Arcades and the Winter Palace.
Gardens and Nymphaea
Some hints in Grimal (1969) other articles by Jashemski and Salza (Jashemski 1987 and 1992) deal about the gardens. Lavagne (1988) and Neuerburg (1965) studedied some nymphaea. Nothing is known about the plants that decorated these gardens, since past excavations did not worry about such details – this is a relatively new branch of archaeology. Sometimes were found ollae perforatae (pots with holes for plants) as in the Canopus. There is no comprehensive study on the subject.
Service quarters and areas
Concerning the servant's quarters, some information is available on the Cento Camerelle (Hundred Chambers) - which were recently re-excavated - in Manieri Elia (2000), Gizzi (2000). About the Firemen's Headquarter (Caserma dei Vigili) see Salza (1980).
They have never been studied and seldom surveyed, but are a fundamental feature of the Villa. The study of their building techniques and chronological sequence would provide a detailed picture of the building phases, since it is obvious that the artificial esplanades were built before the buildings that are on them. It is also important to study the system of links and access ways between the various terraces and esplanades, with staircases, ramps and check-points.
Roads, ways, accesses, undergroud road system, cryptoporticoes and tunnels
The access and internal roads and paths of the Villa still have to be studied. There is no comprehensive study on the subject, especially on checkpoints which linked the different quarters. There was a private and a public part in the Villa, both controlled by a limited number of check-points. Recent works have unearthed the main access of the Vestibulum (Mari-Reggiani-Righi 2001). The subterrranean road system and the underground service galleries were never studied in detail: there are brief accounts by Lavagne (1973), Salza (1973), Rinaldi (2000). General plans never show subterranean roads.
Hundreds of statues, reliefs, architectural marbles and other decorations were found in the Villa. Many of them have been lost, other are in Museums and private collections of the whole world. There is just one complete study on statues, by Raeder (1983) which unfortunately features very few and small pictures, but has a vast and thorough bibliography.
Villa Hadriana and its relationship with Renaissance and Modern art
Many important artists and architects from the Renaissance on have visited Villa Hadriana. Some of them, as Giovanni da Udine, Pier Leone Ghezzi, Francesco Piranesi and Giacomo Quarenghi left their signatures on the vaults of the cryptoporticoes. Others draw sketches and plans, as Giuliano da Sangallo, Francesco di Giorgio Martini, Baldassarre Peruzzi, Andrea Palladio, Francesco Borromini and Antonio Canova. Many artist portrayed the Villa in their paintings. This hystorical documentation still needs to be catalogued. It is important to study the importance and the influence of Villa Hadriana on the art and the architecture of the renaissance and modern times.