Hadrian´s Villa, a gigantic structure of buildings dating back to early 2nd century AD, situated some 28 km north of Rome at the foot of the Appenine mountain range, is in many ways a truly remarkable place. It served as the summer residence for the emperors in this phase of Rome´s history. What struck me in particular was the so-called Maritime Theatre, which seems to have been a place for contemplation. Grandious, with daring and sophisticated architecture and so on, but what really set it out was a sense of familiarity. I had to go back to the place twice during my afternoon stay in the enormous villa complex.
You get the feeling, over the millennia, that here must have been people who were interested in contemplative practice. It may of course be that my phantasy ran away with me, but the place sort of invited to meditate and reflect. What it was I don´t know, but I felt that I could easily spend hours on the spot, meditating or just sitting there.
When it comes to ancient Rome we usually think of blood, betrayal and hedonistic living, but there was also a strong undercurrent of philosophy and reflection, not least in the times of the great emperors Hadrian and
Marcus Aurelius. I don´t know what sort of meditative techniques, if any, they practiced, but I walked away surprised, and quite certain that these people must have been at times also deeply and seriously interested in reflecting upon oneself and life.