Hadrian’s villa: Canopus and Serapeum
If we continue southwards we arrive at the pond after which this part of the Villa Hadrian was named: the Canopus. The first one you see is a pond of 119 x 18 metres that ends at the Serapis sanctuary. The Canopus was dug out in a small and low-altitude valley.
The Serapeum is a large nympheum shaped like a semi-circular exedra. The front room has a domed roof that was cast from one piece. Behind the apse with the recesses we find a long hallway with a barrel vault very reminiscent of a cave. Just like in the semi-circular front room we find reservoirs. The Serapeum was mostly built inside of hill. Serapeum was the god who ruled the dead and lived in the Earth. This made the artificial caverns with its water features a very suitable surrounding. The room was likely used as a triclinium: a room where Hadrian dined with his guests.
Serapeum Video reconstruction
G.B. Piranesi ‘Serapeum’ c. 1769 THE MET
This pond was named after and based on a canal in Alexandria: the Euripos. This canal led to an anabranch of the Nile that hosted the sanctuary devoted to Serapis. And indeed, this sanctuary in Alexandria was also designed by Hadrian. A part of the portico is still intact. The architrave alternates between round arches and some statues remain between the columns. As virtually always, these are copies of Greek originals.
Caryatids Video reconstruction (0.17 minutes)
The Romans were capable of producing large-scale accurate marble copies of the predominantly bronze Greek statues. They developed a clever method to do this, but more on that later. When you stand in front of the three sculptures of Mars, Mercury and Minerva, you see a number of caryatids on the right. These sculptures originally supported a pergola. These sculptures are also accurate copies of the Erectheion-caryatids in Athens, commissioned by Hadrianus. The sculptures we see now are copies made of cement. The sculptures that Hadrian commissioned copies of can now be found in a museum. In addition, there were also sculptures of the Nile, the Tiber and a crocodile.
Youtube Canopus Reconstruction Serapeum-temple
3D model Serapeum
Map of the Canopus: 1. Alternating curved and straight portico 2. Large pond (‘canal’) 3. Small reservoirs 4. Serapeum-sanctuary
The southern part, the Serapeum-temple, has been reconstructed using the many fragments found in the Canopus layers. A reconstruction can be seen here in the Vatican museum.
Serapeum-temple reconstruction Other side Three Gods
Click here for the continuation Rome day 2 Hadrian’s villa: Hall with Doric Pillars and Quadriportico with fishpond