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Villa Selene


Villa Selene: Roman villa on the Mediterranean shore, not far from Lepcis Magna.

The Villa Selene ("House of the Moon"), at the mouth of the Wadi Yala close to modern Homs, is best known for its splendid mosaics. It is believed that its ancient name can still be recognized in the name of a modern village called Silin. This splendid resort is at about three, four hours' walking distance from Lepcis Magna.

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This garden (peristylium), which was once surrounded on three sides by a porticus, is open to the Mediterranean Sea. To the left, you can see the entrance of one of the villa's two dining rooms: it is open to the northeast and to the southwest, where one can enter another garden. This dining room (triclinium) was used in the summer.
This photo is misleading, because the light falls into the room through the door. In Antiquity, the main source of light was a large hole in the roof. After a rain shower, water dripped into the basin in the center of the room. Square houses built around a little pool (impluvium) are called atrium houses; they were common in Italy, and this must be the oldest part of the house.
Map of Villa Selene. Design Jona Lendering. On this map, you can see the atrium house in green. At some stage, one wing of rooms was leveled, and on the foundations, one of the porticos was built. The former entrance was closed, and the hall was converted into something that has been identified as a library. The dark grey rooms were added and include the summer triclinium. To the right, in blue, you can see the bathhouse.
The square room surrounding the atrium was decorated with frescos. Here you see two hunters. To the right of the tree, two lions were visible, so the shield that the left-hand hunter carries on his arm is no unnecessary precaution. 
Like the Villa Dar Buc Ammera, Villa with the Mosaics of the Nile, and the Villa Orpheus, there are mythological scenes on the floors. This one is from the winter triclinium, deep inside the house. It shows the story of Lycurgus and Ambrosia. The latter was one of the Hyades, the women who nurtured the god Dionysus; when Lycurgus tied to catch them, they fled to the sea, except for Ambrosia, who changed into a vine.
In another room in the atrium house, you will see this famous mosaic of a circus. It has been identified with the Circus of Lepcis Magna. In front, you can see the starting boxes, with open doors: the race has begun. There are many chariots and horses, and you can see the spina, decorated with all kinds of monuments.
This poor photo shows an interesting detail: a man who operates an instrument to show how many laps the jockeys still have to run. A normal race had seven laps, and four have been already been finished: four balls (or "eggs", as they were called) are already down, and the man is about to take the fifth one down. The dolphins to the right have the same function.
Yet another room: here we can see a strange scene. The four ladies with the four children represent the four seasons (cf. the mosaic at the Dar Buc Ammera villa). The man to the right is Aion, "eternity", carrying a great hoop: the zodiac.
Top left, we can see Helios, the sun god, arising with his chariot from the eastern Ocean.

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© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2007
Revision: 22 May 2009
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