Originally a small port, by the 6th century BC Stabiae had already been overshadowed by the much larger port at Pompeii. The town was destroyed by Lucius Cornelius Sulla on 30 April 89 BC during the Social War, a revolt by many of Rome's allies in the area. The Roman author and admiral Pliny the Elder recorded that the town was rebuilt and became a popular resort for wealthy Romans. He reported that there were several miles of luxury villas built along the edge of the headland, all enjoying panoramic views out over the bay .

According to the account [ [ Account of Pliny's death] (the famous letter by Pliny's nephew, Pliny the Younger, in Latin and English)] written by his nephew, Pliny the Elder was at the other side of the bay in Misenum when the eruption started. He traveled by galley across the bay, partly to observe the eruption more closely, and partly to rescue people from the coast near the volcano. Unable to land to carry out the rescue because of volcanic debris blocking the shoreline, he continued south to Stabiae.

Pliny died at Stabiae the following day, probably during the arrival of the sixth and largest pyroclastic surge of the eruption caused by the collapse of the eruption plume [cite book | title=Volcanoes| publisher=Oxford University Press| year=2004 | author=Francis, Peter & Oppenheimer, Clive| id=ISBN 0-19-925469-9] . The very dilute outer edge of this surge was the only one to reach Stabiae and left two centimetres of ash on top of the tephra deposits.

Archaeological ruins


The archaeological remains of Stabiae were originally discovered in 1749 by Cavaliere Rocco de Alcubierre, who was an engineer working for the Bourbon king cite book | title=Rediscovering Antiquity: Karl Weber and the Excavation of Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Stabiae | publisher=Cambridge University Press | year=1995 | author= Parslow, Christopher Charles | id= ISBN 0-521-47150-8] . These ruins were partially excavated by Alcubierre with help from Karl Weber between 1749-1782 . The ruins that had been excavated, however, were reburied and their location was forgotten until 1950, when a high school principal rediscovered them . The site was declared an archaeological protected area in 1957, and by 1962 many of the ruins had been again uncovered . The remains of both an Oscan settlement (oppidum) and the later Roman town were discovered . [ Encyclopedia Britannica Website] ]

The most famous of the findings at Stabiae are the villas that come from the time between the destruction of Stabiae by Sulla in 89 B.C. and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D cite book | title=Stabiae: Dalla preistoria alla guerra greco-gotica | publisher=Edizioni Spano | year=2003 | author= Felice Senatore | id=ISBN 88-8822-615-X] . As described above, Stabiae became a resort town during this time and was particularly favored for its view of the Bay of Naples and the surrounding mountains. Stabiae was also well known for the quality of its spring water, which was believed to have medicinal properties. [ Encyclopedia Britannica Website] ] . The ideal placement and qualities of this location caused many wealthy Romans to build luxurious villas on the ridge overlooking the bay. These villas, which are described below, provide us with some of the most stunning architectural and artistic remains of Roman villas. 2004 saw an Italian American collaboration between the Superintendency of Archaeolgy of Pompei, the region of Campania and the University of Maryland to form the non profit Archaeological entity, the Restoring Ancient Stabiae Foundation (RAS). It is the RAS Foundation prime goal to excavate, restore and build an archaeological park at the ancient site of Stabiae, a complex of seven or eight Roman villas according to recent geophysical surveys conducted by the University of Birmingham.

A large number of artifacts come from Stabiae are preserved in the Naples National Archaeological Museum.

Pre-Roman Settlement

Before the age of the villas, however, an Oscan settlement existed in the region of Stabiae. In 1957 three hundred tombs dating from the 7th to the 3rd centuries B.C. were found in a necropolis associated with this town. Many pieces of pottery were found in these tombs and provide us with archaeological evidence that supports the dating of the Oscan inhabitants. It appears that the Samnites later took over the Oscan town in the 5th century. [ [ Encyclopedia Britannica Website] ]


Among the many villas found at Stabiae, the most famous are Villa San Marco, Villa Del Pastore, and Villa Ariana. Some of the other villas include Villa Carmiano, Villa del Petraro, and Villa Capella di San Marco.

Villa San Marco is one of the largest villas ever discovered in Campania, measuring more than 11,000 square metres . This villa has an atrium, a courtyard containing a pool, a triclinium with views of the bay, and a colonnaded courtyard. There are also many other small rooms, a kitchen, and two internal gardens. Villa San Marco also has a private bath complex that is made up of a caldarium, tepidarium, and a frigidarium. This villa is also important because it has provided us with beautiful frescoes, sculptures, mosaics, and architecture, which show styles and themes comparable to those found in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Pictures can be seen at both and

"History of excavation in Villa San Marco"

This villa, deriving the name from a chapel that existed in its proximity in the 18th century, was the first one to be explored in the course of Bourbon times excavations carried out between 1749 and 1754. The graphic and textual documentation of the Bourbon surveys was published in 1881 by Ruggiero M. in the book “Degli Scavi di Stabiae dal 1749 al 1782” (On the Stabiae excavations from 1749 to 1782). The villa was re-buried after the removal of its furnishings and of the better preserved frescoes.Excavations were resumed on 1950 by Libero d’Orsi and O. Elia of the Archaeological Superintendency.

Villa Del Pastore means “Villa of the Shepherd” in Italian. This villa gets its name from a small statue of a shepherd that was discovered at this site (images of this statue can be seen at the website). This villa measures even larger than Villa San Marco, coming in at 19,000 square metres. This Villa was rediscovered in 1967. This villa includes many rooms and both large baths and luxurious gardens. It lacks, however, any domestic rooms, suggesting that it may not have been a residence. One hypothesis is that this is instead a valetudinarium (health spa) that would have allowed people to take advantage of the famous spring waters of Stabiae. This Villa has not yet been fully excavated.

Villa Arianna gets its name from the fresco depicting Dionysus saving Ariadne from a desert island. This villa is particularly famous for its frescoes, many of which depict light, winged figures. It is difficult to get a clear sense of this villa, however, because it grew over the course of 150 years. This villa has one of the largest courtyards of any Roman villa, which measures two stadium lengths. Another interesting feature of Villa Arianna is its private tunnel system that connects its location on the ridge to the sea shore, which was probably only between 100-200 metres away from the bottom of the hill. The shoreline has since changed, making the archaeological site further inland than it was in antiquity.

ee also

*Pliny the Elder
*Pliny the Younger


Photo gallery

External links

* [ Herculaneum/Pompeii/Stabiae Website]
* [ Restoring Ancient Stabiae Foundation site]

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