The so-called Villa Imperiale, which was rediscovered after the bombing during the Second World War in 1943 and excavated by Maiuri in 1947, is one of the most significant edifices in Pompeii. Its name is attributable to its elegant character.

The edifice at its panoramic site close to the Porta Marina is impressive due to its generous dimensions and its exposed situation. The decoration in several salons reflects the importance of the building. This decoration can be attributed to two phases, namely an Augustian around 20 BC in the Third Style and a Neronic / Flavinian phase of the Fourth Style between 60 and 70 AD. The paintings of the first phase document a change in taste. If earlier mural paintings served in the Roman Republic to give the illusion of a view extending outwards into courtyards and colonnades, the intention was then reversed. One now gave the impression of an interior made of valuable metals and stone materials with delicate pillars and small miniature architectures standing on cornices as well as pictures in panels. Instead of elegant and pompous background painting there was the artistic refinement of a sumptuous and costly interior decoration. The refined decorative system is drawn from the total range of motives of the Roman Empire and therefore also includes motives alluding to Egypt. In the centre of the wall there is no longer the view on a sacral architecture as at the time of the Republic, but on a mythological scene with large figures or an extensive idyllic panoramic landscape.


The Villa Imperiale, which is currently not accessible to visitors, is located in front of the gates of the city and can be reached from the main Porta Marina entrance in a few minutes from the railway station Pompeii"Villa dei Misteri / Pompei Scavi". The Via Marina, which was formerly the most important route between the coast and the city, leads upwards to the double-doored Porta Marina. Shortly before this gate there is on the right side towards the Southwest an eighty-metre long portical and a pillared hall, of which remains still exist, leading to the building complex of the Villa Imperiale. The situation of the imperial villa is privileged in many senses of the word. During the course of the first century BC, the so- called hanging houses were built namely on the slopes in the West and South of the city. One of these extensive luxurious houses surrounded by gardens is the Villa Imperiale, built on the old city wall, with a magnificent view of the Gulf of Naples.

The unique significance of the Villa Imperiale is reflected not only in its panoramic location, but above all in its proximity to the sacral centre of Roman Pompeii, the Temple of Venus, and the Veneria Pompeianorum of the patron of the city, Colonia Cornelia. The colonists (Pompeii had become a Roman colony after the Sullanic siege and had to accept approximately 2,000 veterans) had contructed the most luxuriously equipped temple on a 30 x 15 metre large terrace in a location dominating the landscape placed above the river valley with a free and unlimited view on the sea. "In this way there was an optical connection between the Villa and the holy places towering above and one is reminded of the connection created with a religious and ideological intention between the House of Augustus on the Palatine Hill and the Apollo Temple located above it in Rome" (Umberto Pappalardo).

The history of the VIMP

The Villa Imperiale is actually a non-approved building. It was built
illegally during the last decade of the first century BC by its owner on
public ground on the slope of the city wall.
Renewed in the Fourth Style following the earthquake of 62 AD the Villa was
acquired or confiscated at the order of the Imperial Prefect, Tito Suedio
Clemente, on behalf of the state. The terrace of the Venus Temple was in fact
extended during the Vespasian period and as a result the upper floor of the
Villa Imperiale was demolished. Only one of the support arches planned there
for the Venus terrace was constructed and still exists today. "The dominating
location and proximity to the Venus Temple indicates the extent of the power
and the influence of the former owner" according to Wolfgang Ehrhardt. "Not
everyone could afford this building site in the Augustian period. Since the
owner must have belonged to one of the wealthiest and most influential
families in Pompeii, it can be assumed that the expropriation was of a
political nature." One can therefore assume that he did not belong to the
party of Vespasian and thus fell into bad grace, resulting the nationalisation
of his property. Moreover one could consider the new building of the Venus
Temple and the demolition of part of the Villa Imperiale as a generous act of
the new emperor and his popular policy, according to Ehrhardt in respect of
the vestiges which have been found.

The building, which we have inherited, can be summarized as follows:
At the left the entrance near the Porta Marina, a long portical with the garden front, the reception hall (Sala A), the bedroom with a window to the sea (cubiculum), the festive dining-room (triclinium C) with peristyle D and the view to the garden belonging thereto as well as other rooms.

The layout of the rooms of the Villa with pillared halls and ambulatories as well as their inner decorations and the gardens were an expression of the social and intellectual status of the house owner in the tradition of the Hellenistic courts of the Eastern Mediterranean. Of the 43 pillars of the formerly white stucco portical, only a few vestiges have survived. The long hall, which is open on one side through the placement of the pillars, offered not only protection against the sun but above all also a bright festive reception for the visitor.

The decoration of the rear wall in the Third Style, insofar as it still survives, consists of a pedestal and panels in black as well as painted wall murals, which play a major role with regard to the various colours applied in Pompeian painting. The conclusion is formed by a frieze with delicate architecture and elegant gable decorative elements on a white background. The adjoining gardens, the view on the blue sea and the elegant portical together assured an overall feudal effect.