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The Villa of Rufione in Giano dell'Umbria

In the territory of Giano dell'Umbria, a series of reconnaissances were carried out between 1997 and 2001 that led to the identification of an unexpected number of ancient sites, from the prehistoric to the medieval phase. The careful study of the area made it possible to accumulate a wealth of documentation concerning numerous small settlements from the Roman period, closely related to the road axis.

In 2003, the remains of a large Roman villa were found, the presence of which had already been known to archaeological studies since 1925 due to the fortunate discovery, during the cultivation of an olive grove, of a terracotta dolio and a travertine cippus with a dedication to the Lari.

The complex, dating back in its original layout to the late Republican period, was extended in its entirety over an area of approximately 7000 square metres and arranged on a low terrace overlooking the side road of the Via Flaminia, in a panoramic and strategic location, halfway between the ancient centre of Vicus ad Martis (Massa Martana) and Mevania (Bevagna).

The villa was attributed, thanks to the discovery of an inscription, to Gaius Iulius Rufion, son of a freedman of the Roman general Gaius Julius Caesar:



Rufion was probably in the emperor's service during the Alexandrian civil war (48-47 BC); at the end of the conflict, Caesar gave Rufion command of the three legions he left in Alexandria as support for Queen Cleopatra, his lover. Later the legions became four, and in 43 B.C. Aulus Allienus was put in command of them.

The villa shows a continuity of use up to the 4th century AD with substantial restoration in the Flavian age. The proximity to the Via Flaminia and the material so far returned by archaeological investigations suggest a structure consisting of several pavilions, of which the main and most important may have had its entrance right near the consular road. In fact, the excavation has brought to light 18 rooms, two of which belonged to a thermal facility, decorated with mosaics that are only partially preserved; the decorative wall decorations are also rich, of which frustules of the marble covering and frescoes remain.

The valuable artefacts from the Roman villa at Rufione are collected in the Antiquarium Archaeological Museum near Montecchio and were of fundamental importance for studying daily life inside the villa: fragments of polychrome frescoes and stuccoes, glass balsamware, nails and iron artefacts, coins, as well as terracotta and amphorae furnishings.

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