Caddeddi on the Tellaro: A Late Roman Villa in Sicily and its Mosaics by R. J. A. Wilson
Caddeddi on the Tellaro fits into a long-standing body of scholarship (though often lacking for some sites) on Sicilian archaeology, with a special focus on Roman housing and villae. Among these, the most celebrated is certainly the complex of Piazza Armerina in the province of Enna. Wilson reports (vii) that he started to write this work in 2012, when he was "Guest Fellow" at the Getty Research Institute. The Roman villa was discovered in the early 1970s in an [End Page 141] agricultural area close to the river Tellaro, not far from Noto (Syracuse). The villa, built in the fourth century c.e. and destroyed by fire in the fifth century, lies beneath an early-modern farmhouse. The masseria was lived in until the nineteenth century. A thorough review of all the excavation reports and finds has never been published, and this book is therefore undoubtedly crucial for fully understanding one aspect of the complex, that is, its exceptional and well-preserved flooring decoration.
As one of its main objectives, the book offers an accurate, close examination of the Caddeddi villa's mosaics and includes six sections or chapters. First, Background (1–25) helps to situate the villa in the regional archaeological context. It also incorporates specific examinations of other Roman villae in Sicily, including those in Patti Marina (10–15), Pistunina (15), Gerace (15–21), and Settefrati (21–22). "The Caddeddi Villa: An Overview" (26–42) is a description of the entire complex, accurately focusing on the plan, the rooms, and the distribution of their mosaics. However, this part is a little incomplete in its coverage of the history of the villa's excavation (26)—a history that the author appears to have summarized in anticipation (one hopes) of a more complete publication of the excavation results. Chapter 3 (43–62) contains a detailed analysis of the fragmentary mosaic found in room 8, showing the ransom of Hector's body. Wilson provides all the pertinent links with contemporary mosaics and other fine art objects (for example, the Berthouville oenochoe). The mosaic of Bacchus (room 9) is described in chapter 4 (63–74), including coverage of all its decorative elements, such as the crater with pomegranates (fig. 4.18).
The last descriptive section, entitled "The Hunt Mosaic" (75–103), details a spectacular and complex floor that shows an elaborate hunting scene featuring varied characters and animals. Wilson properly analyzes all aspects of the action portrayed therein, albeit focusing on a series of sub-scenes, which he describes separately (for example, "the picnic," 90–95). "Discussion" (104–32) is clearly one of the most significant sections of the book: here, Wilson continues his discussion of various aspects of the hunt scene and its stylistic elements, also contextualizing the floor within the context of other significant African mosaics. A set of thematic appendices (A on saddles, 133–35; B on shoes and legwear, 135–46) further enhances this monograph.
Last but not least, many clear and varied high-resolution illustrations greatly enhance Wilson's book. These images are not only relevant to the Caddeddi villa's mosaics (including enlargements and details; see, for instance, figs. 3.17–21 and 4.3–9), but they also extend to a series of comparative elements such as fruits (fig. 4.10), animals (fig. 5.34), and other mosaics (figs. A.7–12). All 197 illustrations are listed in a dedicated section (151–59).
In conclusion, Wilson's book is undoubtedly an essential resource for scholars interested in late-Roman Sicilian archaeology. It is to be warmly welcomed for four main reasons. First, it offers new data on the Caddeddi villa, data that are still awaiting full publication. Second, the many images represent a crucial strength of this well-documented book. Third, the Caddeddi villa's mosaic floors shed new light on late-Roman art in Sicily, on the inspiration that it draws from classical mythological and religious repertories, and on its links with northern Africa. Fourth, the introductory section includes some new pictures of the Patti Marina villa in the province of Messina—a villa that, sadly, still lacks adequate coverage in modern scholarly publications. Finally, this monograph promises to represent an important starting point for academic coverage of, and systematic [End Page 142] data revisions for, all Sicilian villae, a project that would contribute significantly to improving our knowledge of the island's archaeology during the Roman period.