The villa was created at Tibur (modern-day Tivoli) as a retreat from Rome for the Roman emperor Hadrian during the second and third decade of the 2d century AD. It is said that Hadrian hated the palace on Rome's Palatine Hill, contributing to the refuge being built. It was traditional that a villa was built by the Roman emperor as a location to rest from daily lives. Previous emperors and wealthy Romans like Trajan also built villas. Many villas with tiny farms were also self-supporting and did not have to import food.
The scenic beauty of the Tibur made the region a famous option for the villas and rural retreats. It was reputedly popular with the living in the town of Rome from the Spanish peninsula. This could have led to the selection of the estate by Hadrian, although he was born in Rome. His parents came from Spain and during his early life he might have been acqainted with the region.
There may also have been a connection through his wife Vibia Sabina (83–136/137) who was the niece of the Emperor Trajan. Sabina's family held large landholdings and it is speculated the Tibur property may have been one of them. A villa from the Republican era formed the basis for Hadrian's establishment.
The archaeological evidence and certain written sources, explains that the Roman villa and the domus were partitioned into different settings with precise functions and according to a scheme that is often repeated; for example, the floor-plan of Hadrian’s Villa is comparable to those of the Villa of Mysteries in Pompeii and the Villa of Poppaea in Oplontis (near Torre Annunziata). Despite the fact that the Villa utilizes traditional architectonic language and iconography, it was in any case projected in a rather different, original style.
It is formed by a sequence of interdependent and interlocking buildings, each with its own individual purpose: the three exedra structure, the Nymph Stadium, a fishing structure, the four sided portico, the tiny thermal baths and vestibule of the Praetors (Roman bodyguards).
The symmetries and the interdependence of the buildings linked to each other through protected access points established for the Emperor's privacy and safety make it clear that together they comprised a monumental compound that reflected the picture of Hadrian as a wonderful and sophisticated person.
In reality, in order to show off his tastes and inclinations, he reproduced the locations and monuments within the residence that intrigued him during his countless journey.
Inside the Villa complex, one can see the Poecile, a huge garden surrounded by an arcade with a swimming pool. This area has been constructed so that walks can be made, whether it was winter or summer. Then there is the Canopus, a lengthy water basin adorned with columns and sculptures that in a temple surrounded by a dome of the umbrella nd the remains of two bath areas: the Grandi Terme and the Piccole Terme (the large and small baths or thermae). It contained a large pool with cold water and a round room with a coffered dome.
The Grandi Terme, reserved for the staff of the villa, it consisted of an underfloor heating scheme and a circular room equipped with a sudatio or sauna. The best preserved areas of the villa are the accademia, the stadio or arena, the Imperial Palace, the Philosophers’ room, the Greek Theatre, and the Piazza d'oro, a majestic square the purpose of which was to be a “representation;” it was large enough to allow a vast peristyle decorated in refined stucco. Finally, the beautiful Teatro Marittimo (Maritime Theatre) is an island of sorts made up of an iconic colonnade and circumscribed by a canal.
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