The ancient remains found at Villa Adriana are part of a site covering an area of at least 80 hectares. Constructed at Tibur (modern-day Tivoli) in 117 A.D, Villa Adriana began its existence as an imperial palace far away from the city of Rome. It remains one of the most remarkable examples of imperial and dynastic palace and has been recognised as such by being appointed as a Human Heritage Monument by UNESCO.
Rumour has it that the Emperor Hadrian disliked his imperial palace on the Palatine Hill so much that during the later years of his reign, he actually governed the Roman Empire from his villa at Tibur. How did he achieve this? By creating a dedicated postal service that ran from Villa Adriana to Rome 18 miles away to the west.
After Hadrian’s death, the villa remained in use by his various successors, but during the decline of the Roman Empire, Villa Adriana fell into disuse and was partially ruined. But it didn’t all go to waste. In the 16th century Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este - son of Lucretia Borgia – was granted the position of Governor of Tivoli. In this position of considerable power he had much of the marble and statues found at Hadrian's villa removed and used to decorate his own Villa - Villa D'Este - which was located nearby.
One of the most striking and best preserved features of the Villa are a pool and an artificial grotto which were named Canopus and Serapeum, respectively. Canopus was an Egyptian city which housed a temple was dedicated to the god Serapis – hence the name Serapeum. However, the architecture is Greek influenced as can be seen in the Corinthian columns and copies of famous Greek statues that surround the pool. One story involves the Serapeum and its peculiarly-shaped dome. A prominent architect of the day, Apollodorus of Damascus, dismisses Hadrian's designs, comparing the dome on Serapeum to a pumpkin! Apparantly, Aplooldorus was quoted as saying "Go away and draw your pumpkins. You know nothing about these [architectural] matters." Once Hadrian became emperor, Apollodorus was exiled and later put to death.
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Photographs of Villa Adriana by me, if you want to use some for your own stuff then email me. You will find it under my profile.