Palilia 25: Martin Tombrägel, The Republican otium-villas at Tivoli (Dissertation, Marburg 2005)

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Martin Tombrägel

Palilia volume 25 offers a comprehensive analysis of the architectural history of the luxury villa. It also probes the origins of the fascinating building type in its social-historical context.
It should be kept in mind, that the territory of the rural Latin town of Tibur (Tivoli) constituted one of the most important sites of Roman villa culture in the Republican period. In the summertime, Roman senators were attracted by the cool atmosphere of the Tiburtine slopes in order to escape the bad climatic and narrow spatial conditions in Rome. In his study, Martin Tombrägel discusses the architectural genesis of the earliest Roman otium-villas at Tivoli. A series of imposing elite residences were built here from the early 2nd century B.C. and by using caementicium, the new construction technology exciting new architectural designs could be realized.

Individual observations of architecture, building techniques and construction phases of every single complex form the basis of the presented results. The catalogue of the Tibutine otium-villas comprises 53 villas of the western area of Tivoli which signify an important role in the discussion on the derivation of the type of construction. In addition, seven villas of the eastern area are also included (no. 54 – 60).
The catalogue is organized topographically starting from the North at the hill Colle S. Antonio (no. 1) and ending in the South at the tuff area in the south-western part of Tivoli (no. 53). Inside the catalogue the villas are once more organized in geological respect. The description of each otium-villas is largely based on the excellent parameters of the Forma Italiae publications (Giuliani, Tibur I-II; Mari, Tibur III-IV) which are apart from a few exceptions very reliable concerning the map recording. Giuliani's and Mari's descriptions were mainly completed regarding the construction technique and additions to indications of measurements. When there was no chance to explore a specific complex, the given parameters are based on the Forma Italiae. The identification of material refers to the author's estimations on site. Mineralogical nuances were ignored. Under the category 'dating' there are dating proposals which follow the chronology of construction techniques. When available, additional grounds for dating is listed. The discussion of the naming of each Tiburtine otium-villa which has always been of importance for the scientific research, is without meaning in this context. None of the Tiburtine otium-villas of the Republican period can be attributed to an ancient personality. Therefore issues of naming are only considered in particular high profile cases.