The Posillipo Archaeological Park and the cruel knight’s villa


At the heart of the Posillipo Archaeological Park in Naples – where many other Roman Age sites located, including a theater, the Palace of the Spirits, and the submerged Park of Gaiola – is the villa of Pausilypon, one of the imperial residences where Augustus and his successors once lived.

The residence was built in this beautiful part of the Neapolitan coast by equites Publius Vedius Pollio, who after serving the Emperor wished to spend the last years of his life in a pleasant refuge (indeed, “Pausilypon” is Greek for “respite from labor”).

Pollio was a Roman-Age “self made man”, the son of a freedman who rose to the status of knight, with some questionable or at least uncertain traits. Some say, among other things, that he was exceptionally cruel to his slaves – which was even worse coming from a man who knew just how hard a servant’s life could be.

Apparently, one day – in the presence of Augustus who had come to his villa near Naples – he punished one of his slaves, “guilty” of breaking a precious calix by accident, by feeding him to lampreys. The emperor did not appreciate the knight’s decision, so he saved the slave and ordered the destruction of Vedius’s entire collection of glassware and ceramics.

Vedius begged for forgiveness, and left his Posillipo Villa to the Emperor after his death. Augustus also inherited his other villa in Rome, but after the rich freedman’s death had it razed to make room for the Porticus Liviae, built in honor of his wife Livia Drusilla.

Photos via: ©Sandro Quintavalle, ©motumen, ©ALBERTO ADAMI, ©Armando Mancini, ©Fab Loc, ©Viola Castaldo

November 22, 2017