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Villa Adriana at Tibur - now known as Tivoli, is so-called because it is named after Publius Aelius Traianus Hadrianus Augustus - the Emperor of Rome from 117 to 138. 

Built almost 2000 years ago, Hadrian's Villa  was created with the purpose of being Hadrian's retreat from Rome, and in its day was the greatest Roman example of an Alexandrian garden - a recreation of an ancient and sacred landscape. During the later years of his reign, Hadrian actually governed the empire from this villa.

Unfortunately, most of what was here is now largely lost, partly due to the ruins being plundered by the Cardinal d'Este who had much of the marble removed to build his own palace at Villa d'Este.

While the gardens haven't survived, there was enough evidence in what remained of the original layout to inspire the great renaissance gardens. 

The renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned the period roughly from the 14th to the 17th century.

It began in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spread to the rest of Europe.

Built around the same time as his famous wall which separated Roman England from the wild lands of Scotland, Villa Adriana was destined to be his Palace, his Court, and the military headquarters for Rome's vast empire.

The Emperor Hadrian travelled more widely than any other Emperor, and his gardens were directly inspired by ancient Greek and Egyptian architecture and mythology.

After Hadrians death, the villa was used by his various successors. However, during the decline of the Roman Empire the villa fell into disuse and was partially ruined. 

For centuries these ruins at Villa Adriana were ignored, and it wasn't until the beginning of the Renaissance - when people began to take an interest in classical Greek and Roman culture, architecture and literature - that they realised that something special was hidden here.

Gradually, the statues, columns and water features found at Villa Adriana became highly valued both as prized possessions, and examples of high art. 

Unfortunately, as soon as they became valuable enough, they were often removed/stolen/excavated or sold on the open market or more likely, behind closed doors.

As such, elements of Roman art and archaeology were included in the designs of the new renaissance gardens - the very latest fashion of the wealthy European aristocracy. 

So prized were these Roman antiquities that it wasn't uncommon for privately funded expeditions to be sent out to Italy from across Europe to secure what they could for their wealthy benefactors.

To the renaissance man, the most exciting part of this sprawling site was the gorgeous Canopus. 

The statues that line the huge, colonnaded pool are borrowed designs from the caryatids found in the Parthenon, Athens, and they culminate in a large banqueting hall complete with an impressive, domed opening.

The canopus was important to great renaissance artists and architects, and were visited by the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michaelangelo. 

Why? Because they were looking for both inspiration and measurement. 

More specifically, they believed that the architecture here held the secrets to the 'magic' formula that would enable them to create perfect proportions in art and architecture.


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