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Ancient Roman Villas: The Essential Sourcebook

Available January 2025

Edited by and with translations by Guy P. R. Métraux 

This authoritative compendium of newly translated primary sources reveals ancient Roman attitudes on every aspect of villas, from selection of place and construction activities to day-to-day management and lived experiences.

While the term villa is generic today, its meaning extended across the entirety of ancient Roman life: villas supplied food, oil, and wine to towns and cities and produced raw materials for craft industries and building construction. Villas were also venues for pleasure, relaxation, and the cultivation of friendships and the mind. Many were known for their spectacular sites, architecture, decoration, and furnishings. They came to be ubiquitous throughout ancient Rome's European and Mediterranean rural hegemony.

This volume compiles a wealth of newly translated Latin and ancient Greek sources—treatises, letters, poems, histories, biographies, and other works of literary art—to vividly convey the architectural, economic, social, political, and cultural significance of ancient Roman villas, from their Greek antecedents through the early Christian period. Thematic chapters reveal ancient Roman attitudes on villa architecture, agricultural operations, and the practices of buying, building, and decorating villas as well as entertaining and pursuing leisure there. References to family, gender relations, and the lives of enslaved persons aim to situate, if only indirectly, a broad range of experiences within villas. Supplemented by generous commentaries, copious annotation, a comprehensive bibliography, and a glossary, this definitive sourcebook equips scholars and students alike for further research and makes for fascinating reading.

Guy P. R. Métraux is professor emeritus in the Department of Visual Art and Art History at York University in Toronto.  

“Impressive for its breadth of coverage and erudition, Ancient Roman Villas by Guy Métraux is far more than a sourcebook. Dipping into this carefully curated compilation of ancient writings on villas is both informative and engaging, like sitting in a Roman tavern hearing conversations about the occupants of local estates, current concerns, and shared aspirations—a delight for scholarly and general readers alike!”
—Diane Favro, Distinguished Research Professor, Architecture and Urban Design, School of the Arts and Architecture, UCLA

“Guy P. R. Métraux’s Ancient Roman Villas: The Essential Sourcebook proves to be a captivating read, appealing to both scholars and students with its fascinating commentary and informative translations. Offering insights into various aspects of ancient Roman villas, including regional differences and economic structures, this book serves as an essential resource for classical philologists, archaeologists, and cultural historians. Métraux’s extensive expertise and passion for the subject are evident, making this book a valuable addition to any academic or enthusiast’s library.”
—John R. Clarke, Annie Laurie Howard Regents Professor, University of Texas at Austin

“This impressive book presents a wide range of ancient Greek and Roman literary sources (treatises, letters, poems, etc.) on Roman villas and villa life from the Republican to the late Imperial/early Christian period. Thanks to the clarity of organization and the editor’s lucid prose, the reader can navigate the content quite easily and gain a good sense of the development as well as significance of Roman villas in relation social and political life, architectural developments, the agricultural economy, private as well as imperial ownership, and more. As a whole the book provides an excellent foundation for many areas of villa research and will serve as an essential resource for scholars and students, not only of the Roman period but also of later periods in which villas reemerged as centers of social and economic life.”
—Elaine K. Gazda, Professor and Curator Emerita, Department of the History of Art and Kelsey Museum of Archeology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

480 pages
7 x 10 inches
30 color illustrations
ISBN 978-1-60606-937-0

Getty Publications
Imprint: J. Paul Getty Museum