The villa of Livia Drusilla, wife of Emperor Augustus, was named Ad Gallinas Albas because of a prodigious event: a hawk dropped on her womb a white chicken carrying a laurel. After this event, omens prescribed her to breed this animal and plant the laurel and preserve it religiously. The old villa is mentioned by ancient writers Suetonius, Cassius Dio and Pliny. The latter located the villa on the ninth mile of the Via Flaminia. The villa occupied the height dominating the view down the Tiber valley to Rome, near the present Prima Porta.
During the first excavations in 1863-64, the heroic marble statue of Augustus, now in the Vatican Museums, was discovered at the site and the frescoes with gardens view, that now are in the Museo Nazionale Romano. The fine fresco decor of an illusionistic garden view were in a huge vaulted room, probably a summer triclinium.
The vault above the fresco was covered with stucco reliefs of which only a few remains survive. This part of the villa was vastly restored in the first part of the second century, rooms with black and white or coloured mosaic floors were added. In the northern section of the villa are a thermal complex, a huge rectangular cistern and a series of rooms. South of the cistern is the frigidarium with two rooms for cold water. Around it are other rooms; the calidarium (warm water) has two rooms, semi-circular and rectangular. South-east of the thermal complex - separated by a corridor - is an open area, probably a peristyle, around it are various rooms with black and white mosaic floor. The corridor leads to an atrium with an impluvium (pool); in the north-eastern corner of it is the entrance to the villa, of which today we have the travertine threshold. A vestibule connects a garden with a series of rooms around an open space, here are two cubicula (bedrooms), one of which with an alcove and a black and white mosaic floor. A wall supports the villa on the part near the Tiber, where is a pedestrian walkway that links the villa with the via Flaminia and the via Tiberina.
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