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TIBUR (Tivoli) Italy.

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. 5.238), 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 Roman citizenship.

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. Hadr. 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 (Studi e fonti per las storia della regione tiburtina 3; 1923); RE 6A (1937) 816-41P; EAA 7 (1966) 887-92MPI; C. F. Giuliani, Tibur, pars altera (1966)MPI, and pars prima (1970)MPI 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 (1950)P; S. Aurigemma, Villa Adriana (1961)PI.


hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 9, 30
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 34, 45
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