The town is 27 km
E-NE of Rome, elevated beside gorges and cascades of
the river Anio in the foothills of the Sabine range. On
the ancient Via Tiburtina and visible from Rome (Strab.
), it is mentioned by many Latin writers (Catull.
44; Livy 34.45
; Plin. Ep
. 8.17); it was a very ancient
site, inhabited long before Rome was founded. A powerful member of the Latin League (Plin. HN
16.237), it long remained independent of, and in conflict with, Rome (Livy 9.30
), but in 90 B.C. the Tiburtines entered into
The setting is spectacular, bounded on two sides by
precipices and cascades (Hor. Carm
. 1.7.13). Travertine (lapis tiburtinus) was and is quarried there, fruit was raised, and from Late Republican times the Tivoli slopes were dotted with elaborate villas of the well-to-do;
the celebrated Zenobia was installed in one of these (A.D.
273; S.H.A. Tyr. Trig
. 26). The modern city preserves
at its center a semblance of the ancient, irregular town
plan. Tivoli is very rich in remains. Within the city and
its immediate environs over 200 monuments or fragments of monuments can be identified; only a few of the most significant of these are mentioned here.
The forum extended from the duomo toward the SW,
apparently supported above the hillside in part by an
interesting cellular vaulted construction, dating from the
early 1st c. B.C., which has sometimes been identified as
a covered market street. Farther downhill to the SW are
the considerable remains, embedded in modern construction, of a Sanctuary to Hercules Victor (ca. 120 x 180 m). Probably of Sullan date, it consisted of a terrace, supported on vaulted concrete substructures, that carried a
temple somewhat like that of Mars Ultor at Rome. Along
three sides of the terrace were two-story, arcaded porticos; on the fourth was a sunken, theater-shaped place of assembly flanked by ceremonial staircases. Plans are afoot to clear this major monument.
At the N tip of the town, atop an acropolitan cliff,
stand the remains of two travertine temples of late Republican date and uncertain identification. The rectangular one (ca. 9 x 15.3 m overall) is Ionic tetrastyle prostyle, pseudodipteral. The circular one (to Tiburnus?
Hercules?), contemporary with or slightly later than its
neighbor, is an elegant Corinthian tholos, of 18 columns,
ca. 13.8 m in maximum diameter. At the S extremity of
the town was an amphitheater, built or renovated in the
middle of the 2d c. A.D. Across the Anio to the NW of
the town are the vaulted and terraced remains of a grand
villa known as that of Quintilius Varus; much of what
can be seen is of the 2d c. A.D. Finally, on the Clivus
Tibertinus at the W edge of the town is a well-preserved
rotunda, probably of the 4th c. A.D. and known as the
Tempio della Tosse. It is ca. 16.8 m in diameter and
bears some resemblance to the so-called Temple of Minerva Medica in Rome of A.D. 320, though the Tivoli
building has unusual projecting rectangular niches. The
original concrete hemispherical vault is intact.
Just outside the town's S and E perimeter were the
necropoleis. Copious sources of clear water in the hills
NE account for the many aqueduct bridges across the
neighboring valleys; four of Rome's aqueducts passed by
Tivoli. Over the Anio not far W of the town an ancient
bridge, the Ponte Lucano, stands nearly intact; nearby is
the cylindrical, travertine-faced Tomb of the Plautii, similar to the Tomb of Cecilia Metella on the Via Appia near Rome.
About 4 km SW of Tivoli, on a fairly low and level
site, stand extensive remains of the most famous of
Tivoli's villas, Hadrian's, built in the twenties and the
thirties of the 2d c. A.D. There had been a smaller villa
of Republican date here before the emperor, who was
deeply interested in architecture, began to spread almost
every kind of building across hundreds of hectares. Excavation began here in the 16th c. and has continued intermittently ever since; the museums of Rome (Vatican, Terme, Capitoline, Villa Albani) contain mosaics and
much sculpture from the Villa, and there is a small museum on the site. There is also a useful model showing the main parts of the Villa restored (a duplicate is in Room 40 of the Museo della civiltà romana at the EUR
suburb of Rome). The statement by “Spartianus” (S.H.A.
. 26.5) that the emperor gave to various buildings
the names of famous places has established a certain
nomenclature, accurate or not.
The Villa is planned along axes of various lengths that
intersect obliquely; most individual elements, however,
are symmetrical in plan, erected on artificial terraces of
concrete. The building typology is sometimes highly experimental. Structure is largely concrete and the spaces are vaulted more often than not. The typically Hadrianic synthesis of old with innovatory ideas is seen at the
Piazza d'Oro, a large rectangular enclosure with elaborate waterworks along its main axis. At the centers of the shorter sides of the enclosure are architectural forms and spaces previously unseen in architecture: serpentine
curves, undulating complex vault surfaces, and elegant
orders used purely visually. At the Teatro Marittimo an
artificial, circular island, decked out with pavilions and
chambers, is surrounded by a moat and a colonnaded
and vaulted circular walkway. Of the three bathing establishments the Small Baths are unique in ancient architecture. The planning is anti-classical: rooms whose plans are based on half a dozen geometric figures are fitted
together like a jigsaw puzzle, and their roofs, of various
shapes of vaulting, rise to different heights. Nearby is a
complex of pools and stage architecture known as the
Canopus and Serapaeum. A shallow pool over two hundred feet long is set in a draw between other Villa structures; on one side is a file of urban tabernae. At the end of the pool a vast niche, vaulted in undulating forms and
once sheathed with mosaic of colored glass, is the central
feature of a richly worked complex of nymphaea. Back
from the center of the niche, projecting deep into the
hillside, is a cleverly lighted sanctuary.
Water ran and spurted everywhere. The quality of finish varies from the highest to the quite crude. Some extremely fine mosaics have been found at the villa, and the sculpture ranges from really significant examples to
peculiarly lifeless copies of Greek favorites. In some
cases the architectural whims of the emperor seem to
have been dead ends; at the least the Villa preserves
evidence of most of the developments in Roman architecture during the century or so before it was built.
G. Cascioli, Bibliografia Tiburtina
e fonti per las storia della regione tiburtina
3; 1923); RE
6A (1937) 816-41P
7 (1966) 887-92MPI
; C. F.
Giuliani, Tibur, pars altera
, and pars prima
For Hadrian's Villa: H. Winnefeld, Die Villa
des Hadrian bei Tivoli
(Berlin 1895; =JdI
, Erganzungsheft 3)MPI
; H. Kähler, Hadrian und seine villa bei Tivoli
; S. Aurigemma, Villa Adriana
W. L. MACDONALD