A Roman farm or country-house, of which Roman writers mention two kinds(a) the villa rustica or farm-house, and (b) the villa urbana or pseudo-urbana, a residence in the country or in the suburbs of a town. When both of these were attached to an estate, they were generally united in the same range of buildings, but sometimes they were placed at different parts of the estate. The part of the villa rustica in which the produce of the farm was kept was called villa fructuaria.
(a) The villa rustica is described by Varro (R. R. i. 11-13), Vitruvius (vi. 9), and Columella (i. 4. 5 foll.).
The villa, which must be of size corresponding to that of the farm, is best placed at the foot of a wooded mountain, in a spot supplied with running water, and not exposed to severe winds nor to the effluvia of marshes, nor (by being close to a road) to a too frequent influx of visitors. If there was no running stream, tanks were constructed, one under cover for men, one in the open air for the beasts. The villa attached to a large farm had two courts (cohortes, chortes, cortes, Varro, i. 13). At the entrance to the outer court was the abode of the vilicus or steward, that he might observe who went in and out, and over the door was the room of the procurator (Colum. i. 6). Near this, in as warm a spot as possible, was the kitchen, which, besides being used for the preparation of food, was the place where the slaves (familiae) assembled after the labours of the day, and where they performed certain indoor work. Vitruvius places near the kitchen the baths and the press (torcular) for wine and oil. In the outer court were also the cellars for wine and oil (cellae vinariae et oleariae), which were placed on the level ground, and the granaries, which were in the upper stories of the farm-buildings, and carefully protected from damp, [p. 1660]
heat, and insects. These store-rooms form the separate villa fructuaria.
In both courts were the chambers (cellae) of the slaves, fronting the south; but the ergastulum for those who were kept in chains (vincti) was underground, being lighted by several high and narrow windows. The inner court was occupied chiefly by the horses, cattle, and other live-stock, and here were the stables and stalls (bubilia, equilia, ovilia). A reservoir of water was made in the middle of each courtthat in the outer court for soaking pulse and other vegetable produce, and that in the inner, which was supplied with fresh water by a spring, for the use of the cattle and poultry.
(b) The villa urbana or pseudo-urbana was so called because its interior arrangements corresponded for the most part to those of a townhouse. (See Domus.) Vitruvius (vi. 8) merely states that the description of the latter will apply to the former also, except that in the town the atrium is placed close to the door, but in the country the peristyle comes first, and afterwards the atrium, surrounded by paved porticoes, looking upon the palaestra and ambulatio. [figure in text: Hadrian's Villa at Tibur. (Restoration.)]
A striking difference in the general aspect of a country-house from that of a town-house lay in the fact that the blank walls of the latter were replaced by long colonnades, broken by towers, apses, and the like.
The chief sources of information on this subject are two letters of Pliny , in one of which (ii. 17) he describes his Laurentine villa, in the other (v. 6) his Tuscan. The former of these, however, was not, strictly speaking, a villa, as it had no estate or farm-buildings attached to it; the latter was connected with a large estate. There are also a few allusions in one of Cicero's letters (Ad Quint. iii. 1) to the remains of a suburban villa at Pompeii, besides several Roman villas of which ruins exist in England.
See Becker-Gll, Gallus, iii. pp. 46-63; Overbeck, Pompeii, pp. 325 foll.; and for the remains of the Roman villas in England, Neville in the Archological Journal, vols. ii., vi., vii., x. For Pliny 's Laurentine villa, cf. Cowan's edition of Pliny, i.-ii. (with a plan); Burn's Rome and the Campagna, pp. 411-415 (with a plan); Aitchison in The Builder for Feb. 8th, 1890; and a paper by Dr. H. W. Magoun in the Proceedings of the American Philological Association for 1895.