ARCHAEOLOGY | Stabiae, the forgotten Vesuvian city

The ancient Stabiae, ancient name of Castellammare di Stabia, is little known to most people, overshadowed by the fame of Pompeii and Herculaneum, yet it is a very important city for the Vesuvian area. It was the exception to the eruption in 79 AD: unlike other cities in the area, it rose from the ashes and continued to be an important port and commercial landmark in that area.

Stabiae played an important strategic and commercial role already in the archaic age (VIII century B.C.) before becoming in the IV century B.C. a center of interest for the Greeks, given its position on the sea.

The Greeks transformed the pre-existing town into their emporion, a commercial colony. Later the Samnites took over from the 5th century onwards, having influence over the whole area until the clash with the Romans, who were victorious.

The center, already important for the port and trade, then became, like the nearby Vesuvian cities, one of the favorite places of the Romans for the otium.

The villas of the otium

The largest residential concentration is to be placed between the destruction of the city by Sulla (89 BC) and the eruption of Vesuvius (79 AD). In this period, on the northern edge of the hillock of Varano, there are many villas in a panoramic position, designed primarily for residential purposes, with large domestic quarters, spa facilities, colonnades and nymphaea beautifully decorated.

The urban layout of the ancient center is still recognizable; there are visible traces of the streets and the division into districts. There was a very developed agricultural area, of which traces of some rustic villas remain: the largest two are Villa Arianna and Villa San Marco.

Some of the most famous frescoes in Pompeian style come from Villa Arianna, such as the Flora and the Seller of Cupids. The very name of the villa derives from a large fresco representing the myth of Ariadne; mythological subjects, particularly female figures, are the predominant subjects in this villa, in an educated and refined decoration. In addition to these, then, there are mosaics on the floors, with geometric patterns in black and white, in contrast with the bright colors of the frescoes.

villa arianna
Fresco, Villa Ariadne

Villa San Marco, on the other hand, is characterized primarily by the incredibly well preserved structure, in its interior and open porches. There is no lack of fresco decorations – with a lesser chromatic variety, mainly in red tones, and a greater simplicity of the subjects – and mosaics, also here in black and white.

The structure has the typical characteristics of Roman villas: the atrium is occupied by the so-called impluvium, a pool used to collect rainwater; from here you can access the various rooms of the villa, including, of course, the spa area and the gym.

In the fortified part of the city one can recognize the forum, some of the public buildings, including the remains of a temple with a high podium, and the tabernae.

A good part of the excavations were carried out in the Bourbon period, while the more recent ones have brought to light other environments, such as the kitchen and the peristyle, a sort of internal garden, surrounded by colonnades.

villa san marco
Peristyle of Villa San Marco

 Tradotto da:

Lascia un commento

Il tuo indirizzo email non sarà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *