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Wednesday, March 17, 2021

The Wonders of the Horti Lamiani

 The Horti Lamiani (Lamian Gardens) was a luxurious complex of an ancient Roman villa with large gardens and outdoor rooms located on the Esquiline Hill in Rome, in the area around the present Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. They were created by the consul Lucius Aelius Lamia, a friend of Emperor Tiberius, and they soon became imperial property.  Along with other ancient Roman horti on the Quirinal, Viminal and Esquiline hills, they were discovered during the construction work for the expansion of Rome at the end of 1800s.

The villa and gardens were scenically divided into pavillions and terraces adapted to the landscape, on a model of Hellenistic tradition. They were eventually filled with exceptional works of art, from original ancient Greek sculptures to exquisite frescoes and marble floors. A museum of the nymphaeum excavations is planned to open in 2021.

The land for the horti Lamiani was originally a cemetery just outside the ancient Servian Wall but was purchased by Lucius Aelius Lamia, the Roman consul in 3 CE, who developed the property. He seems to have bequeathed the property to the emperor probably during the reign of Tiberius, and it became imperial state property. Emperor Caligula loved the place so much he established his residence there and further developed the property. In an evocative eyewitness account, the philosopher Philo visited the gardens in 40 CE and accompanied Caligula inspecting the elaborate residence ordering them to be made more sumptuous. After his assassination, Caligula was briefly buried at the site.

The Horti Lamiani adjoined the Gardens of Maecenas and the Gardens of Maiani. Under Claudius (41-54 CE) the Horti Lamiani and Maiani were united and administered by a special superintendent (procurator hortorum Lamianorum et Maianorum).

The property survived until at least the Severan dynasty (193-235 CE) when it became the emperor's private property as shown by a stamped lead water pipe. By the 4th c. the gardens were no longer in use as evidenced by the statuary found broken in pieces and used in the foundations of a number of spas.

Emperor Commodus as Hercules recovered from the Horti Lamiani at the Musei Capitolini in Rome courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Ricardo André Frantz

Spectacular closeups of Emperor Commodus as Hercules at the Musei Capitolini in Rome courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro

Spectacular closeups of Emperor Commodus as Hercules at the Musei Capitolini in Rome courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro

Discobolus, 140 CE, recovered from the Horti Lamiani at the Palazzo Massimo Alle Terme in Rome courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Livioandronico2013


My own closeups of Discobolus at the Palazzo Massimo in Rome

My own closeups of Discobolus at the Palazzo Massimo in Rome

My own closeups of Discobolus at the Palazzo Massimo in Rome

Genius of Emperor Domitianus, with the aegis and a cornucopia recovered from the area around the Horti Lamiani, at the Capitoline Museum courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Marie-Lan Nguyen

Triton or sea centaur, part of a group representing Commodus' apotheosis as Hercules recovered from the Horti Lamiani, Luni marble, Roman artwork, 191-192 CE, at the Capitoline Museum courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Marie-Lan Nguyen.

Sculpture of a woman in a chiton recovered from the Horti Lamiani, now in the Capitoline Museum in Rome, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Burkhard Mücke (white balance adjusted, digitally enhanced and recomposed)

Head of Dionysos recovered from the Horti Lamiani, now in the Capitoline Museum in Rome, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Marie-Lan Nguyen

Bottom of a statue of a Roman soldier, he wears a military tunic and caligae, the typical footwear worn by Roman soldiers, early Imperial period, from the Horti Lamiani, Musei Capitolini, Rome courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Carole Raddato

Head of Priapus recovered from the Horti Lamiani, now in the Capitoline Museum in Rome, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Carole Raddato

Faun with grapes from the Horti Lamiani at the Capitoline Museum courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Sailko.

Esquiline Venus, recovered from the Horti Lamiani, at the Capitoline Museum in Rome courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Miguel Hermoso Cuesta.

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