on the day of the Commemoration of the Malta Republic Day, Flora the Explorer had the occation to visit a special site: the Domus Romana in Rabat at the doors of Mdina, the old Capital City of Malta.
Heritage Malta offered the visit for free and Flora the Explorer couldn’t miss this opportunity to discover more about the Roman life in Malta, also because the Domus Romana is a site that I wanted to visit for so long but I never had the occation before.
What I like a lot about visiting the historical sites is that I don’t feel alone.
Exploring more about the ways of living, the traditions and customs of our ancestors makes me feel part of a big family.
I like to think at the people who lived in the exact place where I am now. What were their problems, how they used to live?
So in a way I don’t feel alone, there is the presence of those who spent their time here, before than me.
The Roman Domus is the only substantial building discovered within the ancient town of Melite and is indeed the richest house ever to be found in Malta.
The remains of this extensive, rich Roman town house and its mosaic pavements were discovered accidentally in 1881, during the planting of trees for what is now Howard Garden just outside Mdina.
The site was investigated further between 1920 and 1924 by Sir Themistocles Zammit, Malta’s first Director of Museums. The neoclassical facade and front garden were completed in 1925.
The exavations carried out in the fields to the east of the Domus show that the remains of buildings continued on this side of the road leading to the Mtarfa train station.
The Domus Romana was built towards the middle of the 1st century BC and was still in use in the 1st and possibily 2nd century AD.
As I discovered inside the museum, the term domus stand for a roman town-house and thus differs from a villa such as those in San Pawl Milqi in Burmarrad and ta’ Kaccatura in Birzebuggia, which are country estates outside the city walls.
A Roman domus was not just a private residence but served a major part in the public and political relations of the house owner with the outside world. It was a place where most of the business was conducted and if the owner was powerful enough people would flock into the first rooms of the house to receive his blessing in the morning.
The best features of this Roman Domus are:
- Its well-made polychrome mosaic paviment of the central courtyard, which was once suroounded by a Doric Peristyle. The best tradition of Hellenistic pictorial culture qualify the mosaic composition among the finest and oldest mosaic compostitions from the western Mediterranean alongside those of Pompei and Sicily.
- Many artifacts and utensils of the daily Roman life, my favourite ones are the hair pins 🙂
- Of a great importance for the history and use of the site is the fact that most of the area covering the Domus and the buildings around it was used as a burial ground during the Muslim period.
A number of built graves were uncovered in an area which at the time would have been just outside the recently reduced city of Mdina. The majority of the graves were oriented from East to West and the body was placed lying on their right side with the head turned to the South facing Mecca.
After the Domus Romana I went to visit what I think is one of the most beautiful Palace in Malta, the Vilhena Palace in Mdina.
It hosts the National Museum of Natural History where you can visit interesting collections of:
- over 25,000 minerals,
- 4,000 birds and 200 mammals,
- over 200 specimens of fish and reptiles,
- over 150,000 shells and isects,
- besides corals, sponges and fossils.
Follow Flora the Explorer, click on the video below 😉
Ps. A special thanks to two lovely kids, Zach and Emma who stopped by to take a picture with Flora the Explorer. They wanted to be on Youtube, so here we are… 🙂