Cultural Corridors of South East Europe

Heritage by Country / Bulgaria

Roman Villa Armira, archaeological site

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Roman Villa Armira, archaeological site

About the site

Corridor: Diagonal Road
Country: Bulgaria, Ivailovgrad
Type: Ancient Site
Epoch: Antiquity
Theme: Antiquity
World Heritage:
AntiquityAntiquityAncient Site

The unique ancient Roman villa is situated close to the town of Ivaylovgrad. The archaeological survey in the 60ies of the 20th century discovered the remains of by-town villa. It became known as “Villa Armira”, by the name of the small river, along which it was built.
Villa Armira is a peculiar villa-palace, determined as unique example of Roman provincial architecture and art in South Eastern Europe due to its exceptional plan, gorgeous marble decoration and original floor mosaics. Built during the second half of the 1st century, Villa Armira is one of the earliest and richest villa complexes from the Roman age, that have been studied up-to-now in Bulgaria.
It is assumed to have been erected by a prominent Thracian aristocrat. The imposing two-storey building is composed of a great number of premises – sleeping rooms, reception rooms, a hall for feasts, living rooms for the women, bathrooms etc. The rooms encircle from three sides a huge open swimming pool, called impluvium. At the beginning of the 3rd century the villa expanded by the erection of a spacious guestroom (triclinium). Part of the building has an under-floor heating system – floor heating, by which the floor stands on brick columns or ceramic pipes, with hot air circulating through, coming from specially built fireplaces.
Villa Armira is famous for its marble revetment rarely found in the provinces of the Roman empire. In the first half of the 2nd century by the villa developed a workshop for art decoration of the sparkling white marble, mined in its vicinity. Masters from the town of Aphrodisias (Asia Minor), known with the greatest sculpture school at that time, were invited to work there. Thanks to them, gradually the villa acquired the luxurious and brilliant image of a palace – the entire first floor had marble slabs and panels revetment. The floors of all rooms and corridors were covered with mosaics with traditional elements typical for the ancient art, all of high art value. Of exceptional value are considered the mosaics from the masters sleeping room, in the northern end of which was depicted the portrait of the owner from the first half of the 2nd century together with his two children. Interesting is also the later mosaics from the guestroom with the image of the Gorgon Jellyfish – a symbol repeated constantly throughout the villa decoration. Considering the scope, variety and quality of the decorations and the marble ornamentation villa Armira remains the only similar site within the boundaries of the former Roman provinces in South Eastern Europe.

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