Hercules Villa

The row of luxurious town houses built in the northern strip of the extensive Military Town surrounding the legionary fortress in Óbuda formed the elegant district of the settlement. Also located here was the Hercules villa – richly decorated with mosaics and wall paintings – the owner of which was likely a member of the elite living in the provincial capital.

A mosaic found during sewer construction drew attention to this Roman period building. In order to preserve and present the building uncovered by the excavations, plans for the modern school being built next-door were also redrawn. The first phase of the Hercules villa can be dated to the first half of the 2nd century AD. At the turn of the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, the series of rooms in the east was extended towards the north and south and the new rooms were decorated with ornate mosaic floors.

Under the school building an ornamental hall with an apse can be seen. Its mosaic depicts a wine harvest procession held in honour of Dionysus-Bacchus and also features a drunken Hercules. The mosaic further includes images connected with the wine harvest, for instance tigers (frequent companions of the god of wine) and Amor offering a bunch of grapes. The mosaic of the apse, too, depicts a big cat standing in a vine arbour.

In the large protective building, three rooms with mosaic floors can be seen. The floor in the first room has a geometric pattern. The outer border of the mosaic in the second room features a meander pattern combined with rectangles, squares and triangles. Inside it the area is filled by a pattern emulating a coffered ceiling, surrounding the central panel, which unfortunately did not survive. The third room presented the myth of Hercules. Inside the mosaic’s border – decorated with geometric patterns and swastika motifs – a depiction of Hercules and Deianeira can be seen. Notably, the mosaicist made the figural central panel using 60 000 tiny stone tiles. (The panel can be seen at the Visible Storage exhibition of the Aquincum Museum.) The cult of Hercules played a role primarily in the religious life of the army. The depiction of Hercules on different mosaics in the house suggests the owner’s close connection with the cult and thus his loyalty to the imperial house and the army.

The separate, small protective building presents the mosaic – depicting boxers – of the changing room of the house’s bath suite, as well as a part of a further room decorated with a mosaic. In the almost intact mosaic the winning athlete stands next to his defeated opponent. To their right is a small stand with various paraphernalia: a palm branch for the victor, two strigiles (used to scrape off oil and sand from their bodies) and a balsamarium. A sewer, covered by stone slabs, runs through the courtyard. The house was abandoned at the very end of the 3rd century AD, or the beginning of the 4th century, and the site of the building came to be used later for burials. The late Roman stone casket graves in the garden are from this period.

Széchenyi 2020
Széchenyi 2020