Domus Tita Macro in Aquileia on Italy’s northern Adriatic coast has reopened to the public after a multi-year project to build a protective roof, restore its famous mosaics and excavate never-before-seen sites.
Aquileia was founded as a colony of the Latin right by the Roman senators Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica, Lucius Manlius Acidinus and Gaius Flaminius in 181 BC. centuries, and it was of military importance to Rome as a stronghold against the Celtic tribes of Cisalpine Gaul.
The senators settled Aquileia with a large population from the very beginning. As many as 3,000 families settled in the new city, and within a few years its population reached 20,000. Gold was found nearby in 130 BC and several Roman roads passed through the area, further adding to its prosperity and importance. At its peak in the 2nd century, the population reached approximately 200,000, making it one of the largest cities in the world. (In contrast, 3,300 people live in Aquileia today.)
Titus Macro built his mansion in the growing metropolis in the 1st century BC. Occupying half of the entire islet of ancient Aquileia with over 18,000 square feet, the House of Titus Macro is one of the largest Roman houses ever discovered in northern Italy. . It was richly decorated with high quality mosaic floors from the 3D checkerboard in the atrium to the dog hunting the deer.
The name given to the villa comes from the inscription T. MACR. found on a stone weight with an iron handle, but over time the dwelling had many owners, as it was constantly inhabited until the invasion of the Lombards in the 6th century AD. dining room, living rooms, bedroom, kitchen – there were also four workshops on the east side. One of them was a bakery, as evidenced by the remains of an oven.
The mosaic floors of the villa were first discovered in the 19th century, when Aquileia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. As was the case at the time, the most glamorous mosaics were torn down and put on display in museums, and the site itself was abandoned. It was privately owned until 1958, when the state purchased the villa, and for the first time it was regarded as an archaeological heritage worthy of attention and on-site research. The mosaics that were removed were reinstalled and the site was opened to the public.
New systematic excavations of the house were carried out between 2009 and 2015, and the mosaics were also restored. The site was closed to allow for a major roofing project to protect the famously impressive mosaic floors and to recreate, with modern materials, the original structure of the ancient mansion. The new additions were completed last year and the home is now open to the public again.
The Aquileia Foundation has created a fun little video of a 3D recreation of the house as it looked in its heyday.
In this video, the director of the Aquileia Foundation, archaeologist Cristiano Tiussi Erica, introduces the site, explaining the history and significance of the villa. You can see the top view of the new protective roof and how well it integrates into the remains of the house, as well as the restored mosaics. It’s in Italian, but English captions are tolerable.