English School 19th, Century
The Remains of Horace's Villa
The Remains of Horace's Villa
4th April 1850
pencil and watercolour
22.86 x 15.24 cm. (9 x 6 in. )


Horace's Villa is a Roman archaeological complex near Licenza, Italy. Besides the impressive remains on the site, the Licenza villa is of interest because it is one of the few ancient houses whose owner we can hope to identify. This identification is possible because Horace wrote several poems about the place, and the location of the villa corresponds to the geographical indications in the poetry. It was owing to references to the villa in Horace's writings that humanists attempted to find the site as early as the mid-fifteenth century, but the site in Licenza was not considered as a possible candidate for two hundred years. This changed when an inscription mentioning a temple of the goddess Victory was found in nearby Roccagiovine.

Horace tells us in one of his poems (Epistles I.10) that his villa was next to the sanctuary of the Sabine goddess, Vacuna. Luca Holstenius (a mid-seventeenth century geographer and a librarian at the Vatican Library) identified the sanctuary with the temple of the goddess Victory mentioned in the inscription, and he showed that the Romans associated the Sabine deity with their goddess Victoria. Important confirmation of Holstenius' thesis came in 1757 with the discovery of the massa Mandelana inscription near Cantalupo (Mandela), which helped antiquarians to identify yet another place name mentioned by Horace as being near his Sabine estate.

The Anio Valley to the east of Rome is rich with archaeological remains. The Roman villa on the east slope of the Colle Rotondo (980 meters above sea level) in the Lucretili Mountains near the hilltown of Licenza is one of the best preserved and most significant sites. Attributed by most scholars since the eighteenth century to the Roman poet Quintus Horatius Flaccus (Horace), this villa dates from the first century B.C. and is located just 30 miles from the center of Rome in a valley near Vicovaro and Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli.

Horace's Villa was situated in the Licenza Valley in the first century BCE. The actual site was identified and a small portion was excavated in the eighteenth century. Major excavations were undertaken in the early twentieth century. Thus far, the impressive main residence of the estate has been identified, covering, in the imperial period, some 40 x 110 meters of built space and gardens. Black and white mosaics (formerly dated to the Horatian period but now known to be Flavian), marble wall revetment and architectonic elements, an elaborate water system, and artistic and utilitarian remains have been found. A selection of the material is on display in the local museum in the town of Licenza.