Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford Classical Dictionary. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 07 December 2022



  • Michael L. Thomas


Villa was the Latin word for a rural dwelling associated with an estate, and villas ranged in character from functional farmhouses to luxurious country seats for the élite (Varro, Rust. 1.11.1–1.12.4; 3.2.1–18).1 Most of the literary evidence for villas relates to Italy and primarily describes farms run for the benefit of urban-based proprietors (e.g., Vitr. De arch. 6.6.1), though the most opulent seaside villas of the Roman aristocracy were sometimes built solely for pleasure. Aristocratic enjoyment of rural retreats and pride in creating architectural splendours there are well attested (e.g., Plin. Ep. 2.17), but the classic Italian villa, comprising not only a luxurious dwelling for the use of the owner on visits to the estate (pars urbana) but also working farm buildings (pars rustica) and storage buildings and barns (pars fructuaria), is perfectly illustrated by the excavations at Settefinestre, which have uncovered an aristocratic domus (mansion), baths, slave quarters, wine and olive presses, a piggery, a substantial granary, and formal gardens (cf.


  • Ancient Economy
  • Roman Material Culture

Updated in this version

Article rewritten to reflect current scholarship. Digital materials and images added.

You do not currently have access to this article


Please login to access the full content.


Access to the full content requires a subscription