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Thorsten Opper

Site of a Roman villa (500 m to the north of the monastery of Loukou) in the ancient region of Thyreatis in the eastern Peloponnese. The recent finds are divided between the archaeological museums of the nearby modern town of Astros and the regional centre Tripolis. Although the villa is not mentioned in the ancient literary sources, the discovery of inscriptions and portrait sculptures (Herodes, Polydeukion) shows that the complex belonged to the family of the famous Athenian sophist Herodes Atticus. Individual sculptures from Loukou, some of them removed to the nearby monastery, were first mentioned by travellers in the early 19th century. Excavations carried out since the 1970s have revealed the nucleus of a richly decorated villa built on a grand scale. The structures uncovered so far stretch over three terraces on different levels. The lowest, to the north of the site, is dominated by a three-aisled basilica-style building with two rows of four columns crowned by composite capitals and a semicircular apse with six statue niches at the western end. The building, which was later converted into a Christian church, is flanked by further rooms of unknown use. A flight of stairs leads to the middle terrace further south. This section of the villa is laid out around a large peristyle with a nymphaeum at the western end and single-storey porticos with ornate mosaic floors (muses, mythological scenes, circus races etc) along the other sides. The centre of the peristyle is surrounded by a wide canal on all sides, which was fed by water from the nymphaeum. Behind the nymphaeum to the west is a further large apsidial room with rectangular side wings. To the east of the peristyle, separated by further rooms and small nymphaea, follows a large garden stadium, while near the south-east corner remains of dining rooms and a heroön dedicated to ...



T. F. C. Blagg

Site with sanctuary of the goddess Diana beside the lake of the same name that fills a volcanic crater in the Alban hills 25 km south-east of Rome, Italy. Both lake and town take their name from the nemus (Lat.: ‘sacred wood’). The sanctuary originated before the 6th century bc as the centre for a local cult in the territory of the Latin town of Aricia; it continued to flourish under Roman rule until the 4th century ad. The peculiar slave priesthood of Diana Nemorensis was the inspiration for Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough (London, 1890–1915), while the picturesque scenery of the area attracted English landscape artists in the late 18th and 19th centuries, notably J. M. W. Turner, who painted several views of the lake.

The main remains of the sanctuary now visible to the north-east of the lake are of a large rectangular terraced precinct (...



J. Dentzer-Feydy

[Seia; Arab Sī‛]

Site in southern Syria, 3 km south-west of Qanawat, known principally for its regional sanctuary, now very much decayed (late 1st century bc–2nd century ad). Built on the tip of a spur cut by erosion into the north-west flank of the Jabal al-‛Arab, at some distance from main population centres, Seeia stood in a high position overlooking the valley of Qanawat. Several routes, which met at the lower end of the sacred way, connected this isolated site to neighbouring localities, which suggest that the sanctuary was a place of pilgrimage, trade and general contact for the inhabitants of the surrounding agricultural areas and for nomadic herders. The valley still retains traces of agricultural management, numerous tombs in the form of barrows and towers and a small sanctuary where the routes meet at a crossroads.

The oldest known part of the sanctuary is the Temple of Baalshamin, supreme god of ancient Lebanon and the Syrian hinterland; this was built between ...


Anthony King

Site of a large Roman villa near Cosa in Tuscany, Italy, which flourished 1st century bc–3rd century ad. Its importance lies in the complete plan ascertained from excavations in 1975–81, and in the interior decoration of the villa urbana. The excavations provide good evidence for wine production, perhaps linked to the export of Sestius amphorae from Cosa to Gaul. This was associated with the building of the villa in the mid–1st century bc and its floruit in the Augustan period (27 bcad 14). By the 2nd century ad changes had taken place in the region’s agricultural economy, with the result that intensive pig rearing for export replaced wine production to a certain extent. The villa was not so well appointed at this time, and it was abandoned by the mid–3rd century ad.

The villa was built on terraces over a low hill, and is divided along the lines of a ...


Patsy Vanags

Site of a Roman temple incorporated into an Early Christian or early medieval church, c. 15 km north of Spoleto, Italy. The River Clitumnus, with its numerous springs, was sacred in Roman times, and there were many shrines along its course. Spolia from these may have been used in the existing structure. It has some traits in common with Roman temples, most notably its four-columned façade with a pediment above. The framing of the columns with two apparently contemporary square section columns is uncommon, but other aspects of its design mark it out as an Early Christian building (4th or 5th century ad) or an early medieval one (8th or 9th century). The interior has a narrow horseshoe arch in the apse and carved mouldings with early medieval characteristics. The building stands on a podium, but instead of a staircase at the front, a flight of steps on either side leads to a small pedimented doorway giving access to the interior. This unusual arrangement may be due to the siting of the building on a sloping bank, but its bold form, with miniaturized Hellenistic grandeur reminiscent of the Roman sanctuary (late ...