Water History

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 57-78

First online:

Water and the display of power in Augustan Rome: the so-called ‘Villa Claudia’ at Anguillara Sabazia

  • Edmund ThomasAffiliated withAncient Visual and Material Culture, Durham University Email author 

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This article re-considers the architecture of the Roman villa site at Anguillara Sabazia (Lazio (RM), Italy). It is argued that the villa should be dated to the Augustan period, rather than the late Republic, and that its elaborate ornamental water features, including fountains arranged in an elliptical curve, were supplied by the Augustan aqueduct, the Aqua Alsietina, also known as the Aqua Augusta, either directly, or through a subsidiary branch off the main conduit. Its particular elliptical form, unique in Roman villa architecture at that time, may be explained as a small-scale version of the imperial pool (Stagnum) created in 2 bc for the Emperor Augustus’s recreation of sea-battles (Naumachia Augusti) in the modern district of Trastevere, which was the eventual destination of the aqueduct. There is no firm evidence for the owner of the villa, but a fragment of an honorific inscription from the site suggests a high-ranking ex-consul from the family of the Cornelii, possibly connected with the water administration (Cura Aquarum) in Rome.


Villas Aqueducts Fountains Aqua Alsietina Elliptical shape Sea-battles Naumachia Opus reticulatum Opus mixtum Roman architecture