Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Acheologists uncover headless sphinx

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After more than a year of digging at the villa of Roman Emperor Hadrian in Tivoli, Italy, archeologists have unearthed a huge staircase, a statue of an athlete, and a sphinx without a head.

Government officials announced the discoveries Tuesday, hailing the findings as a key to understanding the layout of the Tivoli ruins. The villa was built in the 2nd century A.D.

So far, 15 steps, each 27 feet wide, have been identified.

Hadrian was Emperor of Rome from 117 to 138 A.D. He was a patron of the arts, and his villa at Tivoli was the greatest Roman example of an Alexandrian garden, recreating a sacred landscape, lost now in large part to the despoliation of the ruins by the Cardinal d'Este who had much of the marble removed to build his gardens. In Rome, the Pantheon, Rome built by Agrippa was enriched under Hadrian and took the form in which it remains to this day.

From 119-121 A.D. Hadrian spent time in Britain, and was responsible for the building of Hadrian's Wall there. More than half of Hadrian's mostly peaceful reign was spent traveling; he visited Greece, Parthia, Persia and Ephesus.

Hadrian was a mystic, and took part in the Eleusian mysteries.

He died at the age of 63. His body was cremated, with the ashes buried on the grounds of the Tivoli villa, alongside his wife and son who died the same year, 138 A.D.

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