SFB 1266, 1. Förderphase, Projekt E3 – Roman Republican Villas in Italy. Rural complexes in the light of human-architecture-landscape relations; PI: Annette Haug

Roman villas
Villa San Marco in StabiaeBildnachweis: wikicommons


Academic Staff:


Mitarbeiter/innen der Klassischen Archäologie: Asja Müller, Fanny Opdenhoff, Jessica vant' Westeinde, Michael Feige

Project description

The project investigates the relations between human actions, architecture and surrounding landscape in the context of Roman Villas on the Italian peninsula of the 2nd and 1st century BC. The systematic spreading of the “villa system” during the last two centuries before Christ marks a decisive transformation in the way in which humans perceived, structured and used the landscape of Italy. The result of this transformation was a completely new system of rural settlements and economics, as well as a specific way of life that should remain dominant until the end of antiquity.

As a mix of economic facilities and residential buildings Roman villas represented multifunctional architectures that had to cope with a wide range of tasks and needs. They had to combine spaces for the leisure, recreation and festivities of their owners as well as agricultural production into a single building complex. At the same time they were built in very different locations and various landscapes. They therefore form an excellent basis for the investigation of the connections between human, landscape and architecture.

Against the background of these assumptions, the main question of the project is how the different functional requirements and natural circumstances were taken into account in the planning, design and decor of the buildings. The project will analyze this on the basis of various aspects, such as:

Location – Function – Architecture

  • Which locations were preferred for the construction of villas with varying functionality?
  • Which architectural modules were used in the design of the villa buildings? Where and in which way were they applied?
  • Are there architectural forms or combinations that were especially developed for villas?
  • Is it possible to detect connections between the use of specific architectures, the function and/or the surrounding landscape?

Perceiving and interacting with the architecture

  • What role did the view out of the villa and its outside perception play in the planning, positioning and orientation of the buildings?
  • How were production and service facilities handled in regard to the outside perception of the building?
  • How did the villa’s architecture structure human perceptions and actions?
  • In which way did the layout of the rooms or other elements coordinate the movement and vision throughout the building?
  • Which functional spaces were structurally linked or separated, respectively?

Perceiving and interacting with the landscape

  • Did different landscape settings influence the layout, orientation and decoration of certain rooms, i.e. triclinia? Were specific landscape views preferred in this context?
  • How were these views architecturally arranged and enhanced?
  • In which way was the view out of the Villa perceived by the inhabitants?
  • Which elements are reflected in artistic works, i.e. the Roman wall paintings?
  • Has the natural landscape in the immediate and further vicinity of the villas been artificially altered with gardens or ornamental architecture to suit the view to the taste of the owners? If, which kinds of alterations can be traced?
  • How did "real" and "artificial" nature (natural landscape/gardens) interrelate?

Social and historical context

  • Which ideas, ideologies and social structures can be deduced from the relationship between human, villa architecture and landscape?
  • How and to what extent did they influence or condition the formation of the Roman-Italic Villeggiatur?
  • What is the relationship between the Roman villas and their functional nearest relatives, the palaces of the Hellenistic kingdoms?