Villa of the Quintilii

By the Editors of the Madain Project

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The Villa of the Quintilii (Villa dei Quintili), now in ruined state, was an imposing historic Roman estate situated a bit beyond the fifth marker along the ancient Via Appia Antica, just outside the traditional boundaries of ancient city of Rome. This grand villa was constructed by the affluent and cultivated Quintilii brothers, Sextus Quintilius Valerius Maximus and Sextus Quintilius Condianus, both of whom served as consuls in the year 151 CE.

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Overview

The remains of this suburban villa are so extensive that when they were initially unearthed, local residents dubbed the site "Roma Vecchia" (literally meaning the "old Rome"), believing it covered too much ground to be anything other than a small town. The core of the villa was built during Hadrian's era (first hald of the second century CE). It featured expansive thermal baths supplied by its own aqueduct and, even more remarkably, a garden-hippodrome, which dates back to the fourth century CE when the villa came under Imperial ownership. Emperor Commodus desired the villa so greatly that he executed its owners in 182 CE and seized it for himself.

Architecture

Presently, the archaeological site accommodates a museum that displays marble friezes and sculptures that were once part of the villa's decoration. The nympheum, the tepidarium hall, and the baths are accessible as well. A magnificent terrace, built in 1784 CE, offers a splendid panoramic view of the Castelli Romani district from high above the Via Appia Nuova. It's worth noting that the villa's grounds stretched beyond the path of the Via Appia Nuova.

In 2018, recent excavations brought to light an extravagant and highly unusual winery and triclinium. This structure was constructed directly above the starting gates of Commodus' circus. What sets it apart are the marble-clad surfaces instead of the typical opus signinum treading areas. Moreover, it featured a complex distribution system with wine fountains that conveyed wine from the production areas down into the cellar.

While the winery facility contained equipment commonly found in ancient Roman wineries, its level of ornamentation and theatrical design suggest a more exceptional purpose. It seems to have been used for conspicuous production and possibly for ceremonial vintage rituals attended by the elite of Imperial Roman society.

Surrounding this winery area on three sides were triclinia, or dining rooms, characterized by wide entrances and adorned with opus sectile designs featuring exotic marbles arranged in intricate geometric patterns. These elements point to the notion that the emperor hosted gatherings here, centered around the theatrical spectacle of wine production. This discovery bears resemblance to the ceremonial winery found at the imperial Villa Magna in Latium. The structure has been dated to the reign of Gordian III, who ruled from 238 to 244 CE.

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