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EMAS Members’ Favourite Archaeological Sites

Villa Romana del Tellaro

Submitted by Hushang Balyuzi

Hunting scene – Room 8
(click on the photos to enlarge)

The Villa Romana del Tellaro lies in the Caddeddi district in south east of Sicily, about 35km south of Siracusa. It was discovered in 1971. While much of the site lies beneath farm buildings of the 17th to 19th centuries, excavations in the 1970s and 1980s uncovered most of its ground plan, which can be clearly seen in aerial views, for example in Google Earth. Numismatic dating evidence suggests that it was built in the latter half of the 4th century. It appears to have been destroyed by fire in the period 450-500 AD.

The villa is notable for the mosaics, uncovered in three rooms and a corridor, which are comparable with the much better-known ones at the Villa Romana del Casale near Piazza Armerina and, like them, are thought to be the work of north African craftsmen, probably from Carthage. The mosaics in the rooms include a hunting scene, measuring 6.40m by 6.25m, one of 4.80m by 4.70m dedicated to Bacchus, and a fragment in another room depicting a scene from the Trojan Wars of Priam paying a ransom to Achilles for the body of Hector. The mosaic in the corridor features a series of laurel-wreath medallions.

More than 30 years after the excavations, the villa was opened to the public in 2008, but since it is some distance from the popular antiquarian sites, it sadly attracts few visitors.

For further information, see Villa Romana del Tellaro
and Current World Archaeology #105, p16.

Hunting scene – a soldier being attacked by an enraged tigress

Fragment – the weighing of Hector’s body in exchange for its weight in gold.