OPLONTI E LA VILLA DI POPPEA
The Vesuvius suburbs, the countryside of the cities buried following the eruption of 79 AD, was once dotted with Villae, country residential complexes and farms. Among these Oplonti is probably one of the most significant one. The name Oplonti, now included in the municipality of Torre Annunziata, was traced on an ancient map called “Tabula peutingeriana”, a medieval copy of a map of the road network of the Roman Empire; it was a real suburban center, under the jurisdiction of Pompeii.
The site of Oplonti is characterized by the presence of two monumental buildings: the villa A (so called “villa of Poppea”, a grandiose and luxurious residential complex) and the villa B (of L. Crassius Tertius, corresponding to a farm for wine and oil production).
Currently the only visible monument of ancient Oplontis is the large residential villa, not entirely brought to light, dating back to the middle of the 1st century BC.
It was a luxury villa overlooking the sea in a panoramic position, with beautiful decorations. According to the testimony of an inscription painted on an amphora, it is thought that it may have belonged to Poppaea Sabina, the second wife of Emperor Nero, or to her family’s estate. At the time of the eruption the building had to be largely uninhabited due to ongoing works, perhaps followed the earthquake of 62 AD.
The oldest part of the structure develops around the “Tuscanic” atrium with rooms for rest, lunch and stay sumptuously decorated and illuminated by windows open to the garden overlooking the sea. The villa was also equipped with a private spa complex, heated by the kitchen tubes, later transformed into an area for the living room.
Around the middle of the 1st century A.D. the complex expanded, with the addition of the huge swimming pool, 61×17 meters, along which there were the dining rooms, for the stay, accommodation for guests and small winter gardens decorated with beautiful paintings.
Thanks to the paleobotanical studies it was possible to define the original vegetation: boxwood hedges, oleanders, lemons, plane trees, olive trees, cypresses, roses and climbing ivy.
Oplonti also testifies to the uniqueness of the Vesuvian territory in ancient times: breathtaking views, luxury villas and a flourishing countryside.
(Ph. Giuseppe Avino)