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The Serapeum And The Canopus Of Hadrian's Villa

Virtual Visit of this Room

Reconstruction Of The Canopus Of Hadrian's Villa (Tivoli)

One of the most charming architectural structures that form part of the great villa erected in Tivoli by the emperor Hadrian (117-138 AD) is the so-called Canopus, from the name of the branch of the Nile that leads from Alexandria to the city of the same name. Here the emperor wished to build, as the scenographic conclusion of the path that ran beside the long basin called the Pecile, the shrine of Serapis (Serapeum), an articulated architectural structure composed of a rectangular basin framed within an exedra, followed by a gallery with a long narrow pool. The entire complex of the Pecile and of the Canopus was an architectural transposition of the geographical situation respectively of the Mediterranean (so for example on the western bank of the Pecile there are copies of the Caryatids of the Erecththeum of Athens) and of the Valley of the River Nile, represented by the bold composition of the exedra of the Serapeum, portraying the Delta, and of the actual Canopus, divided into two parts, Lower and Upper Egypt. Numerous statues, today in the Vatican, in London, Dresden and Munich, formed a series of groups:

The solar reawakening of Osiris/Apis who emerges from a lotus flower between two priestesses and an offerer (3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4): a group located on a bridge over the canal portraying the Nile;
Four divinities associated in mythology with Osiris/Apis, Nefertum and Ptah of Memphis (3.5, 3.7) Isis and Horus of Canopus, and two Osiris/Antinous (3.6), all situated in the niches beside the bridge;
A colossal bust of Isis-Sothis-Demeter (3.9), situated in the large niche at the end of the corridor where the canal of the Canopus had its source and from under which gushed the falls of the waters of the Nile in flood;
Four Osiris/Antinous in white marble situated in the large niches in the sector of the corridor which must have represented Upper Egypt (3.8, 3.11); white is in fact the heraldic colour of Upper Egypt;
Four Osiris Antinous in red stone, placed in the niches of the exedra which must have represented Lower Egypt (3.10), that is the Delta; red is in fact the heraldic colour of Lower Egypt.