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Villa Selene

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

On the first page of our walk through the Villa Selene, we have seen the oldest part, the atrium villa. Now we are back on the peristyle. As you can see, the terrace is decorated with mosaics that show beautiful geometric figures. This is the southeastern ambulatory. The southwestern part, which is more or less in front of the summer triclinium, are Nilotic figures. We can see a fierce-looking crocodile, some vegetation, and pygmies fighting against ibises (or ill-depicted cranes). The little men are dressed like gladiators, but instead of helmets, they have a flower, and instead of a shield, a broken amphora. This was a common motif in ancient art, that can also be found in the Villa Dar Buc Ammera., and the Villa of Neptune Mosaic in Italica, Spain.

The summer triclinium itself was decorated with several kinds of natural stone; no photo available., the online home of Ancient Warfare magazine
The central building (dark grey on the map) between the old atrium house and the bathhouse has several rooms, all decorated with lovely mosaics.
This is probably the finest of all. The little stones are about 2 mm large and one wonders if this mosaic does not betray child labor. We see Amphitrite (the spouse of the god of the sea Neptune) and a triton. This is of course a very normal decoration in a villa situated on the shores of the sea. It is in the northernmost room.
In the southernmost room, we find this mosaic: people are performing acrobatic stunts on the back of a bull. Two people are thrown off. This murderous game must have been staged in the circus of Lepcis Magna.
This is an image of the villa, seen from the south. The small dome belongs to the bathhouse; you can see the vaulted heating room to the left. The apse in front of this photo belongs to the esplanade.
The bed room, between the southeastern ambulatory and the bathhouse, was decorated with these stuccos, which have survived in nearly perfect condition. They represent small erotes.
This room, decorated with slabs of natural stone, is the entrance to the bathhouse. It is blue on the map.
Here we reach the central room of the bathhouse. It has an unusual layout: all rooms are situated around this central room, which appears to have been the frigidarium, or cold water bath. The mosaic on the floor has all kinds of aquatic motifs.
In the little apse in the center of the preceding photo, you can see these two boxers.
This corinthian capital decorates the entrance of one of the rooms of the bathhouse.
One of the rooms has these black-and-white drawings of wrestlers.
The esplanade in the southeast, again with lovely mosaics. In the background, the cupola of the bathhouse.

The Villa Selene was discovered in 1974. Forty-six rooms have been excavated, but not everything has been uncovered yet. This splendid house, the Villa Nile, the Villa Orpheus, and the Dar Buc Ammera villa are just three of the many resorts along the shore. There were many more, covering the entire area from Tripoli (ancient Oea) to Misurata. Some were once founded as atrium houses, perhaps by Italian settlers, but the main construction phase was in the second century.

Thanks to Martin Moser and Aitor Irarte
© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2007
Revision: 22 May 2009
Livius.Org Anatolia Carthage Egypt Germ. Inf. Greece Judaea Mesopotamia Persia Rome Other