Villamagna

In the territory of the commune ofAnagni, at the limits with that of Sgurgola, in the hamlet of Villamagna, the ruins of a Roman imperial villa can be seen. The villa was built near the ancient imperial road, on which later the Benedictine Abbey of San Pietro di Villamagna was settled, after the destructions likely committed by the countless invaders who raided the Sacco valley starting from the Roman Empire's downfall, and in particular the Goths leaded by Ricimer in the sixth Century.
The monastery probably arose in the tenth Century, and the pope Urban II, with his bull of 1088 August 21
th, allotted Pietro, bishop of Anagni, the castle of "Villam Magnam” and other castles of the area, including that of Sgurgola.
During the XII and the first half of XIII Century, the monastery increased its possessions thanks to donations, above all of the people of Anagni, of lands towards Sgurgola and Gorga, gaining also a considerable power.
The monastery probably decayed starting from the second half of XIII Century. Pope Boniface VIII, hailing from Anagni, with two bulls, in 1297 and in 1301, ordered the merger with Anagni cathedral of Villamagna, with all its properties, including a remarkable archive
(Giammaria).
Archaeological excavations are carried out in Villamagna. Details and pictures can be found in the website:

from the University of Pennsylvania website: http://www.arthistory.upenn.edu/aamw/fieldwork.html#villamagna
In AD 144-5, at the age of 23, Marcus Aurelius travelled from Rome to the imperial villa at Villa Magna where his adoptive father Antoninus Pius awaited him. In letters to his tutor, Fronto, he describes two days spent there, hunting, writing and harvesting the grapes. (Fronto iv. 5). The site of the villa where this rural idyll took place is known today as Villamagna and lies just south of Anagni, some 40 miles south of Rome, at the foot of a steep hill that must be the one referred to in the text. Covering dozens of hectares, the site of the villa today shows little of its former splendour. The remains consist of three ranges of cisterns fed by an aqueduct which probably leads from a spring at the base of the wooded hill, a nineteenth-century casale built on top of a range of substructures which form the basis villae for some part of the ancient villa, and various traces of substructures on the long ridge running down from the casale towards the road. Halfway along this ridge is found a complex of medieval structures, including a large church with a Romanesque apse and masonry of much earlier periods and some late medieval walls. From the ridge the land slopes away and various walls are just visible under the grass. The site has never been subject to deep ploughing and today consists of open meadow. The only excavation in the recent past has been a test trench in the courtyard of the casale which revealed a pavement in opus spicatum where Numidian marble takes the place of the standard terracotta tiles. An almost identical pavement is found in the palaestra of the Emperor Domitian’s villa at Circeo. Such a witty reference to rustic pavements gives us a hint of the sophistication of the decoration that we might expect to find elsewhere in the villa. The excavation of Villamagna aims to reveal as much as possible of the buildings of the villa, and to study its occupation over the longue durée. The lack of deep ploughing seems to guarantee exceptional preservation of many of the ancient structures, giving a unique opportunity to investigate the architecture and decorative aspects of an imperial villa. Paleobotanical and osteological research should throw light both onto the gardens of the site as well as the economy of the villa and its successor settlements. The monastery that occupies the center of the ridge will be particularly interesting for the study of the implantation of monasticism on classical sites, and the development of a small rural monastery from the early middle ages through the fifteenth century. The result of the project should be a full scientific publication, the creation of a small visitor’s center, and the presentation of the site to the public in an accessible fashion.
The first season, in 2006, is intended to learn everything possible from geophysical survey and the recording of the standing structures, although a few small probes will be carried out. Future seasons contemplate the area excavation of significant portions of the villa.


from the website: http://www.fastionline.org/php/content.php?lang=en&item=5&site_id=185&season_id=659
Summary
In June and early July a campaign of excavation and geophysical survey was carried out at the site of Villa Magna. In spite of the fact that the villa is mentioned in two letters from Marcus Aurelius to his tutor, Fronto (iv.5), and on a well-known inscription recording the paving of a road from Anagni to the villa (CIL X, 5909, A..D. 207), the site had never been the subject of scientific investigation. Over the northern sector of the villa was built the monastery of S. Pietro di Villamagna, mentioned in documents from the tenth century onwards. Of this, a Romanesque church and a line of 15th century fortifications are still visible.
The magnetometry covered around 9 ha. Its spectacular results, still in the process of elaboration show the plan of the northern half of the villa. Excavation took place in front of the church and in the courtyard of the nineteenth-century casale, built on extensive vaulted substructures.
An extensive cemetery occupied a yard at the entrance to the church, subsequently sealed by the fortification of the borgo around 1400. Inside the church, excavation in the northwest chapel revealed a group of tombs dating perhaps to the sixteenth century, cutting a series of pavements beneath. A Cosmatesque pavement was also revealed during the cleaning of a small clandestine excavation in the presbytery.
In the courtyard of the casale, 300 meters to the South, the general plan of the productive sector of the villa was revealed. All floors were paved in marble, including that of the sumptuous cella vinaria paved in opus spicatum with tiles of Numidian marble, and panelled with marble and serpentine. Dolia emerging from this pavement leave no doubt that, in spite of its decoration, the room was used for the pressing and storage of wine.
(Elizabeth Fentress, Caroline Goodson, Marco Maiuro)
Research Institution: Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici del Lazio / British School at Rome / University of Pennsylvania
Funding Body : 1984 Foundation / Comune di Anagni.

letters of Marcus Aurelius to his tutor Marcus Cornelius Fronto
from M. Cornelius Fronto - Epistulae:
http://epistol.glossa.dk/fronto.html (translation: Andrea Gaddini)

ad M. Caesarem 4.4 [60 VdH; 1.174 Haines]
Postquam vehiculum inscendi, postquam te salutavi, iter non adeo incommodum nos fecimus sed paululum pluvia aspersi sumus. Sed priusquam ad villam venimus, Anagniam devertimus mille fere passus a via. (...) After getting on the carriage, after having saluted you, we had a not so uneasy trip, even if we were caught in some rain. Before going to the villa, however, we made a detour of about one thousand steps to Anagni. (...)

ad M. Caesarem 4.5 [61 VdH; 1.178 Haines]
Have, mihi magister carissime.
1. Nos valemus. Ego hodie ab hora nona noctis in secundam diei bene disposito cibo studivi; a secunda in tertiam soleatus libentissime inambulavi ante cubiculum meum. Deinde calceatus sagulo sumpto (nam ita adesse nobis indictum erat) abii salutatum dominum meum.
2. Ad venationem profecti sumus, fortia facinora fecimus, apros captos esse fando audimus, nam videndi quid nulla facultas fuit. Clivom tamen satis arduum successimus; inde post meridiem domum recepimus. Ego me ad libellos. Igitur calceis detractis, vestimentis positis in lectulo ad duas horas commoratus sum. Legi Catonis orationem de bonis Pulchrae et aliam, qua tribuno diem dixit, “Io”, inquis puero tuo, “vade, quantum potes, de Apollonis bibliotheca has mihi orationes adporta.” Frustra: Nam duo isti libri me secuti sunt. Igitur Tiberianus bibliothecarius tibi subigitandus est; aliquid in eam rem insumendum quod mihi ille, ut ad urbem venero, aequa divisione inpertiat.
3. Sed ego orationibus his perlectis paululum misere scripsi, quod aut Lymphis aut Volcano dicarem: alhqvs atuxvs shmeron gegraptai moi venatoris plane aut vindemiatoris studiolum qui jubilis suis cubiculum meum perstrepunt, causidicali prosum odio et taedio. Quid hoc dixi? Immo recte dixi, nam meus quidem magister orator est.
4. Ego videor mihi perfrixisse; quod mane soleatus ambulavi, an quod male scripsi, non scio. Certe homo alioqui pituitosus, hodie tamen multo mucculentior mihi esse videor. Itaque oleum in caput infundam et incipiam dormire, nam in lucernam hodie nullam stillam inicere cogito, ita me equitatio et sternutatio defetigavit.
5. Valebis, mihi magister carissime et dulcissime, quem ego, ausim dicere, magis quam ipsam Romam desidero.
Hail, my dearest master.
1. We are fine. Today from the ninth hour of the night to the second hour of the day, after providing myself of enough food, I studied; from the second to the third hour, wearing my sandals, with much pleasure I took a walk in front of my bedroom. Then I wore my boots and a mantle (indeed we had been told to wear this way), and I saluted my Lord and I went out.
2. We went hunting and we performed great deeds, we knew by hearsay some wild boars had been catched, but we had no chance to see them. We also climbed a rather steep hill; we came back home after noon, and I came back to my books. Then I took my boots and clothes off, and I stayed behind on the bed for about two hours. I read Cato's orations De bonis Pulchrae and the other, with which he sued a tribune. It's no good you tell your boy: “Go, as you can, take me from Apollo's library these orations." Indeed these two books followed me. Therefore you should urge Tiberianus the librarian; about this I must do something so that he, as I'll be back in the city, devote himself to an equitable sharing out.
3. Yet, after I read in full these orations, I wrote rather poorly something I'll consecrate to the Lymphs (throwing it in the water) or to Vulcan (throwing it in the fire): surely today I had no luck in writing: a short composition quite worthy of the hunter or the vintager that make my bedroom resound with their cheerful cries, just the same nuisance and boredom of lawyers' orations. Why did I say this? No, I said the right thing. Indeed even my master is an orator.
4. I think I've got some cold; I don't know if it's because in the morning I walked with the sandals, or because I wrote too much. Surely man is in general catarrhal, and today I feel being more full of mucus than I ever was. Then I'll grease my head with oil and I'll go and sleep; in fact today I think I'm not pouring even a drop of oil in the lamp, so much I got tired of riding and sneezing.
5. Be well, my dearest and sweetest master, that I, as I dare to say, I wish to see more than the same Rome.

ad M. Caesarem 4.6 [62 Hout; 1.180 Haines]
Have mihi magister dulcissime.
1. Nos valemus. Ego aliquantum prodormivi propter perfrictiunculam, quae videtur sedata esse. Ergo ab undecima noctis in tertiam diei partim legi ex agri cultura Catonis, partim scripsi, minus misere, mercule, quam heri. Inde salutato patre meo aqua mulsa sorbenda usque ad gulam et rejectanda ‘fauces fovi’ potius quam dicerem ‘gargarissavi’, nam est ad Novium, credo, et alibi. Sed faucibus curatis abii ad patrem meum et immolanti adstiti. deinde ad merendam itum. Quid me censes prandisse? Panis tantulum, cum conchim et caepas et maenas bene praegnatis alios vorantis viderem. Deinde uvis metendis operam dedimus et consudavimus et jubilavimus et “aliquos”, ut ait auctor, “reliquimus altipendulos vindemiae superstites”.
2. Ab hora sexta domum redimus. Paululum studui atque id ineptum. Deinde cum matercula mea supra torum sedente multum garrivi. Meus sermo hic erat: “Quid existimas modo meum Frontonem facere?” Tum illa: “Quid autem tu meam Cratiam?” Tum ego: “Quid autem passerculam nostram Cratiam minusculam?” Dum ea fabulamur atque altercamur, uter alterutrum vestrum magis amaret, discus crepuit, id est, pater meus in balneum transisse nuntiatus est. Loti igitur in torculari cenavimus (non loti in torculari, sed loti cenavimus) et rusticos cavillantes audivimus libenter. inde reversus, antequam in latus converto ut stertam, meum pensum explico et diei rationem meo suavissimo magistro reddo, quem si possem magis desiderare libenter plusculum macerarer.
3. Valebis, mihi Fronto, ubiubi es, mellitissime, meus amor, mea voluptas. Quid mihi tecum est? Amo absentem.
Hail, my sweetest master.
1. We are fine. I slept rather for long, by the slight cold, that now seems to be passed. Therefore, from the eleventh hour of the night to the third of the day, I partly read Cato's "Agriculture", and partly wrote, less badly, indeed, than yesterday. Then I said my father good morning and then, swallowing some water with honey until the throat and then spitting it out, I "refreshed my throat", which is better than saying "I gargled", and actually so is reported in Novius, I think, and in other authors. But, after cleaning my throat, I went by my father and I assisted him while he immolated, then I had a snack. What do you think I ate? Just a little bread, while I saw the others stuffing themselves to bursting point of broad beans and onions and fishes. Then we devoted to the work of vintage and we sweated and we had fun and we "left some vintage's survivor hanging on the higher branches".
2. At the sixth hour we came back home. I studied a little and unwillingly. Then, sitting on a cushion, I chatted a lot with my mummy, who . I was saying: "What to you think my dear Fronto is doing in this moment". And she: "What do you think my Cratia is doing?". Then I said: "Do you mean our tiny young sparrow Cratia?". While we were chatting and arguing on whom of you loved more, the gong rang, announcing my father was going to the bath. After bathing ourselves we had our supper in the wine-presses room (we didn't bathed in the wine-presses room, but we had our supper after the bath) and we had fun hearing the peasants squabble. Then I came back into my room and, before I turn on a side and snore, I make my duty and write a report of the day for my sweetest master, which if I could desire more, with pleasure I'll be consumed a little more.
3. Be well, my sweetest Fronto, wherever you are, my love, my joy. What do I feel to you? I love somebody absent.
I apologize for any error in English translation: if you want to communicate
with me for corrections and/or comments,
click here

bibliographic references:
GIAMMARIA Gioacchino (2004) Memorie bonifaciane nell'archivio capitolare di Anagni. In: Lo schiaffo a Bonifacio VIII e altre ricerche di storia medievale anagnina. Istituto di storia e di arte del Lazio meridionale, Anagni.
www.bbkarchsoc.clara.co.uk/newsletter.htm
http://www.villa-magna.org/

page created: May 17th 2008 and last updated: September 2nd 2016