Roman Villa of Rio Verde Marbella
Roman Villa of Rio Verde Marbella
In the early 60´s MR. Carlos Posac Mon and MR. Fernando Alcala Marin discovered the remains of the roman villa of Rio Verde.
The excavations uncovered part of luxurious villa built during the 1ST and 2nd centuries AD. The core of the complex is a porticated patio with columns, which bases still stand, with perimetrical corridors on three of its sides granting access to different rooms.
During the republican period romans used the term villa to describe a house in the countryside within a rural property (fundus). If the economical possibilities of the owner allowed it, the house could have a small pavilion detached from the area reserved to the workers ( day labourers, slaves and their families), from which to control periodically his farm’s productivity.
This differentiated space grew in size and importance to assure the well-being of the owner and his family who were searching for a counter point to the hectic city life(noise, intense social and political life..), without giving up the pleasures and comfort of urban life( gardens, baths, rooms richly decorated with mosaics a paintings..). From then on, villas would clearly differentiate in two well-defined parts; The owners residence(pars urbana) and the areas destined to the labour force and the production activities (pars rustica).
Villas as the one Rio Verde were built by the seaside as well and, in some occasions, would bases their richness in harvestings of marine resources’. For that purpose factories and supporting facilities would be built within the property(fundus) to elaborate and commercialize with salted fish, fish sauce or purple..
Factories produced garum using fatty fish( anchovies, mackerel, sardines, tuna..) and aromatic herbs (fennel, celery, mint, sage,) Allowing them to marinade in brine for some weeks in small basins. Its taste would vary depending on the fish used or whether the ingredients were shrimps, oysters…, or mixed with vinegar, oil, water or wine, resulting in different methods or recipes .
Garum was the bare essential sauce to season all kind of meals, to whet your appetite, to ease your digestion and it replaced salt in haute cuisine. Therefore it was a very demanded and expensive product. Its use as a remedy was in the form of compresses for burns and to heal any kind of ulcerations, ear aches, eczema, stomach conditions..
DECORATING WITH STONES
The mosaic is a decorative art which uses coloured glass, marble, ceramic or stone to create images or drawings, used as facing on walls and ceilings, its hardness and permeability allowed it to stand out as flooring material by placing it as a sort of carpet.
But, did these stone drawings serve mainly for decorative purposes.
The mosaic was part of the artistic, social and economical scheme in the history of Rome, it was only a handcrafted work; The depicted images also linked the different provinces within the empire and were unifying factor for the exclusive roman society.
Its use was a sign of Romanization; An instrument to send a message related to the house owner’s economical power and knowledge, aiming to earn his well-being and prosperity. Ultimately, the mosaic was witness of a social class willing to enjoy life’s bests conditions at home while showing their visitors an image to value the owners by revealing, particularly, their high level in roman figurative culture.
MANUFACTURING PROCESS OF THE MOSAIC
The Roman architect Vitruvius explained how to build a mosaic:
1.The first step of the process consisted of setting coarse stones( statumen) on flattened and compressed ground, followed by a mixture of three parts of loose stones and one part of lime (rudus), to finish with a layer of sand and lime mortar(nucleus).
2.Finally, inserting the tesserae. These pieces, in general , were cubic in shaped and could be made of stone, different colours of marble, ceramic or glass.
3.Drawing of the geometrical, floral or figurative motifs while the mortar was still wet.
As time went by, the building endured a degradation process which probably started due to a fire taking place during the IIND Century AD. Later on, it might have suffered the AD 365 tsunami.
Tesserae: Limestone, slate, ceramics and vitreous paste.
Colours : Red, grey, pink, yellow, ochre and salmon.
Schema composition formed by a central circle, semicircles on the sides and a quarter of a circle on the corners. Originally from italica, this model was developed in the 11th century A.D. and was enriched later, in Baetica, by the addition of colour.
In Greek mythology Medusa or Gorgon was a monster that turned into stone those who looked directly in her eyes Perseus beheaded her, offering her head to Athena who placed her on her shields as an element of protection to ward off evil. Its display in pavements seeks to deter the evil spirits, to protect the inhabitants of the house and to promote good luck in maritime navigation.
The birds show the close relationship between the villa and the place where it is located on the shores of the mouth of Rio Verde.
Xenia or “dead nature” mosaic type displaying different food, including fish, oysters and birds, as well as an amphora full of garum, barbecue grills, cooking pots and assorted kitchen utensils.
Its uniqueness lies in the fact that in this pavement they are not listed as secondary elements of another composition but they are all part of a 15 mts, strip in which they are all displayed one after another, as a showcase.
Its design is schematic and it is purpose could be completing the cycle of the theme of these corridors that represent exploitation and consumption of these products, which final destination is the table.
SLIPPERS. Upper class Romans ate while reclining on beds called triclinia for that reason they had to take their shoes off. The slippers represent the end of this mosaic which motifs revolve around the preparation of a meal.
MARINE AND GEOMETRIC THEME
Tesserae: Limestone and slate.
The technique of Black and White mosaic is an innovation of the 1st century AD which reaches its splendour at the beginning of the 11th century A.D., arising as a reaction to the polychrome compositions.
The three aisles of the peristyle and two of the rooms contain mosaics with geometrical motifs.
The decoration of anchors, rudders and dolphins could indicate that the villa belonged to one of the rich merchants or navicularius devoted to the maritime trade of goods.
The use of these marine motifs represents the marketing of the products that were obtained in this villa and symbolize a happy navigation, elements which were believed to bring about the success of the journey by sea.