Imperial Villa Discovered in Rome Near The Milvian Bridge On The Banks Of Tiber

Imperial Villa Discovered in Rome Near The Milvian Bridge On The Banks Of Tiber

WED 13 FEB 2019 06:29 PM

Imperial Villa Discovered in Rome Near The Milvian Bridge On The Banks Of Tiber:

Milvian Bridge

Last year in November, a preventative archaeological survey carried out at an area near the famed Milvian Bridge (before the commencement of utility works) revealed the remains of an ancient Roman villa quite by chance.

Back then the partial excavations were temporarily suspended by filling up the trenches, in fear of the rising water levels of the Tiber that could have damaged the archaeological scopes. But with the coming of spring in this year, archaeologist once again started their excavation on the site – and they were greeted by the ruins of a ritzy Imperial Roman villa with its fair share of decorative mosaics.

The researcher are not sure about the exact extent of the building and its compound that could differentiate between a large villa and a private residence – since they have only been able to partially excavate the site.

But, regardless of the size of the structure, this Imperial Roman Villa flaunted its highly intricate mosaics that were arranged in the opus sectile style.

Pertaining to the latter, the opus sectile entailed the layout of multicolored marble pieces instead of the conventional tesserae tiles. These marbles were arranged in floral motifs complimented by both geometric and figural shape.

Judging by the opulent nature of the mosaics, the scientist have Assume that the rest of the Imperial Roman residence might have also showcased its exquisite decorations. However, they are still perplexed by the location of the dwelling since private villas were generally not constructed so close to the river Tiber.

And since we brought up the location, the Milvian Bridge (or Pons Milvius) in itself boasts its historical legacy since the Third century BC, when it was constructed by Gaius Claudius Nero (not be confused with Emperor Nero), a Roman general who served in the 2nd Punic War against the invasion of Hannibal and his Carthaginian army. And arguably, the most famous episode related to the bridge pertains to the momentous Battle of the Milvian Bridge that pitted the 2 Emperors Constantine and Maxentius against each other.

The retreating armies of the latter finally took refuge in the well-fortified city of Rome itself, when the armies of Constantine invaded Italy in 312 AD. And while Maxentius presumably did not have the support of the masses, he was backed by the Praetorian Guard who indulged in many of the state-sponsored massacres.

In any case, Maxentius resolved to meet his rivals army north of Tiber along the approach to Rome.

Then followed a debatable decision to build a pontoon bridge parallel to the stone made Milvian Bridge.

Now according to some, this new access point was constructed because the pre existing Milvian Bridge was either damaged or too narrow for a large army to pass. Other ancient sources mention how the pontoon bridge was built as a ‘sinkable’ trap for the approaching army of Constantine.

In any case, it was the Praetorian Guards along with their Emperor Maxentius who had to retreat to this bridge after their formations broke from the devastating enemy cavalry charges. And almost alluding to a poetic end to their politically corrupt legacy, the pontoon bridge collapsed under the weight of the soldiers, thus causing many of the guards to drown along with Maxentius himself.

Shortly afterward, both the (remnants of) Praetorian Guard and the Imperial Horse Guard (discussed in the last entry) were unceremoniously dissolved under the decree of Constantine.

P. Natasha Covers Classical Archaeology news and has been with Histecho since 2017. She has a Master's degree in MA Archaeology from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting program. A California native, she also holds a Bachelor of science in molecular biology and a Master of Science in biology from the University of California, San Diego.