1800-year old palatial Roman villa complex found in Amyntaio, Greece


Amyntaio (in the Florina regional unit of Macedonia, Greece) grabbed the headlines in the field of archaeology, with researchers determining how the area had settlements and habitats dating from circa 6500 BC. Well, this time around, fast-forwarding to more than six millennia later, archaeologists came across what has been touted as one of the most majestic ancient Roman villas ever found in Greece. Known as the Villa of Alexandros, the massive residential complex boasting over 96 spatial arrangements (like big and small rooms, corridors, courtyards, and baths), covered around 1.2 acres of land and ‘housed’ a range of art installations, including murals, mosaics, and sculptures.

The excavations, starting in 2017, were headed by the Thessaloniki Ephorate of Antiquities, and the researchers came to the conclusion that the upper-class residents of this domus were patrons of Greek style of art and mythology-inspired depictions. Their names appear as Alexandros and Memmia, as found in the inscriptions of the villa complex, and they possibly lived in the provincial town on the Amyntaio plain in 3rd century AD. This settlement, encompassing an area of 25 hectares, economically thrived during the timeframe, especially since it was situated along the Via Egnatia, the major road (covering almost 700 miles) of the Roman Empire that connected Illyricum, Thrace, Greece, and Anatolia.


As for the aforementioned zones of the magnificent domus, the archaeologists were particularly impressed by three big spaces inside the main structure – the Europa Hall, the Nereids (sea nymphs) Hall, and the Beast-Warrior Hall. Pertaining to the Europa Hall, it is the best preserved of all the spatial arrangements of the Villa of Alexandros. Along with bearing the name of the owners, the room was furnished with a bevy of mosaics that portrayed a range of mythical scenes – like that of the abduction of Europa, Pan with the nymphs, the abduction of Dione, and Apollo on a Griffin.

The Nereids Hall, boasting its area of almost 1,000-sq ft, was the ‘piece de resistance’ of the entire villa. Possibly the largest and most sumptuous of all the rooms of the domus, it served as the reception area that was bedecked with exquisite mosaic floors, exceptional sculptures, and a marble stele dedicated to the worship of Zeus, the head-god of the ancient Greek pantheon. The mosaics were artistically arranged around the central fountain and thus covered themes of the marine nature, like sea nymphs riding seahorses, cupids atop dolphins, fishing scenes, and birds. The sculptures unsurprisingly represented characters and deities from Greek mythology, including Hermes, Athena, and Poseidon. Furthermore, the archaeologists were able to discover a slew of historical objects in this room, ranging from bronze figurines, clay fragments, shards from a perfume bottle to ceramics and pieces of silver and bronze jewelry.


And lastly, as for the Beast-Warrior Hall, the curiously concocted moniker of this room rather mirrors the central image of the space. According to archaeologist Panikos Chrysostomou, head of the excavations run by the Thessaloniki Ephorate of Antiquities –

The beast fighting scene, while a common theme at the time, could be a reference to an actual event. It may be a scene from events celebrating the emperor, to please and thank the residents of the Roman city of Amyndeus (Amyntaio).

Incredibly enough, all of these discoveries entail just one-third of the entire villa complex, whose initial construction possibly harked back to the earlier 2nd century AD. To that end, the archaeologists are looking forth to continue their excavations this year in a bid to discover even more spatial and artistic elements. At the same time, the researchers are also focusing on the assessment and preservation of their preliminary finds.


Source: Greece-Is / All Images Credit: Thessaloniki Ephorate of Antiquities