Villa Augusto in Somma Vesuviana

Villa Augustea,  Somma Vesuviana
Japanese Archeological Research for a Roman Villa in Somma Vesuviana - Naples

  Masanori Aoyagi

University of Tokyo and Expert of the Romualdo Del Bianco

In 2001 the University of Tokyo launched, with the concession from the Archaeological Superintendent Office of Naples, an interdisciplinary research project lasting 6 years (terminating in 2006). The object of the research is the area of the so-called Villa of Augustus, situated in the locality of Starza della Regina, in the Municipality of Somma Vesuviana. The site is located at the foot of the Mt. Somma, on the northern slope of Mt. Vesuvius, in an area incessantly subject to the damages produced by the volcanic eruptions, where, however, the succession of the natural events and of the human vicissitudes is very little noted, in contrast to that of the coastal zone, where archaeological excavations and researches were initiated as

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early as in the first decades of the 18th century.
The first investigations at Starza della Regina were undertaken in the 30s of the 20th century after the fortuitous discovery of a wall of notable dimensions in the course of agricultural work, which immediately indicated the presence of an architectural complex of certain importance in that area. The excavation, executed from 1934-36 by Matteo Della Corte under the supervision of Amedeo Maiuri, brought to light the remains of a monumental building. The building was conserved for the maximum height of about 9 m in elevation and had been destroyed, according to the same excavators, by the “mud lava consequent to the eruption of 79 AD”, when the restoration work successive to the earthquake of 62 was still underway.

Among the discovered structures the most majestic was a “colonnade with arches and pilasters”, oriented east-west and identified for the length of approximately 12 m; it was connected perpendicularly with a “brick wall” and decorated with three niches. Apart from them, “columns and capitals of marble, pavements in mosaic, beautiful fragments of statues of a person in heroic dress (…) polychrome stucco of walls and lacunars” were also discovered.

Despite the limited extension of the investigation effectuated then (approximately 70 square metres), the monumental characters of the constructions brought back to light and the their topographic location were judged sufficient elements to identify in the complex the residence, many times recorded in the literary sources (Suet. Aug. 98; 100; Tib. 40 Tac., Ann., I, 5;I, 9; IV, 57) and situated apud Nolam, in which the emperor Augustus spent the last days of his life ... (to be continued)