Cultural Heritage Joys and Sorrows at the Villa of the Antonines in Genzano di Roma (15 min)


Timothy Renner, Montclair State University; and Deborah Chatr Aryamontri, Montclair State University


The archaeological site known as the Villa of the Antonines in Genzano di Roma has been recognized, since 1701, as the residence ad Lanuvium of this imperial dynasty when a series of busts portraying members of the Antonine family, now in the Capitoline Museums, were found in a large octagonal room with black-and-white mosaic flooring near the 18th mile of the ancient Via Appia.

Since then, the site, sadly, has fallen victim to extensive modern construction and depredations, leading to the loss or displacement of countless archaeological and architectural features and invaluable historical information. Only the still-standing ruins of the majestic baths were briefly investigated by the Italian Cultural Heritage authorities in the late 1980s. Since 2010, the Montclair State University research team has brought to light important new evidence such as a private amphitheater and residential rooms lavishly decorated with mosaics, expensive marble, and fresco paintings. Thanks to our extensive track record of fieldwork and research, the site was included in the 2023 proposal for the ancient Via Appia as a UNESCO site, and it has been awarded a European Union grant to make it partially accessible to the public for the first time.

Nonetheless, the site is continuously endangered by vandalism, looting, fires, and uncontrolled vegetation growth. Moreover, bureaucratic complexities as well as new economic circumstances continue to subject the site to human and natural risks.

This paper explores new approaches and challenges, alongside the usual archaeological research issues, faced by the Villa of the Antonines archaeological research team as a case study in a changing legal setting, shifting global and local sociopolitical dynamics among the different stakeholders, and community awareness and engagement in the definition, perception, and consumption of Cultural Heritage.