Villa of Livia
The Villa of Livia (Latin: Ad Gallinas Albas) is an ancient building near Rome, Italy, probably part of Livia Drusilla's dowry brought to the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Its Latin name, Ad Gallinas Albas, referred to its breed of white chickens, but it was also famous for its laurel grove, which was said by Suetonius to have auspiciously omened origins.
The Villa was built and modified in four stages, the earliest of Republican date, the latest of the time of Constantine the Great. In the 19th century the villa belonged to the Convent of Santa Maria in Via Lata. It may never have passed into private hands. The villa occupied the height dominating the view down the Tiber Valley to Rome. Some of the walling that retained its terraces may still be seen.
The site was rediscovered and explored as early as 1596, but it was not recognized as the Villa of Livia until the 19th century. In 1863/4 a marble krater carved in refined low relief was discovered at the site and in 1867 the heroic marble statue of Augustus, the Augustus of Prima Porta, was found: it is now in the Vatican Museums (Braccio Nuovo). The magisterial Augustus is a marble copy of a bronze statue that celebrated the return in 20 BCE of the military standards captured by the Parthians in 53 BCE after the defeat of Crassus at Carrhae.
Except for works of terracing—the gardens are currently being excavated—, all that can be seen today are three vaulted subterranean rooms, from the largest of which an illusionistic fresco of a garden view, where all the plants and trees flower and fruit at once, was removed to Rome. Following cleaning and restoration, it has recently been reinstalled in the Palazzo Massimo. The vault above the fresco was covered with stucco reliefs of which only a few survive.
A new series of more meticulous modern excavations was initiated in 1970. Since 1995 exploration at the Villa has been undertaken by the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma, headed by Professor Gaetano Messineo, in tandem with the Swedish Institute in Rome.
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