The Villa Romana del Tellaro is a Roman villa dating from the late Roman Empire. The remains of the villa were found in 1971 in a fertile agricultural area, on a low elevation near the Tellaro river.
The central building was constructed around a large peristyle. The section of the porch on the north side had a floor which was decorated with mosaics. They show laurel wreathes forming circles and octagons with geometric and floral motifs. They border two other rooms that retain figurative mosaics.
In the first of these rooms a very damaged mosaic contains a panel with scenes of the ransom of the body of Hector. In this scene Odysseus, Achilles and Diomedes, identified by inscriptions in Ancient Greek, are weighing the body of the hero. The figure of Priam is lost, but the legs of Hector's body can be seen partially on the right side of the scales. The gold of the ransom is visible on the left side. This event was not mentioned in the Iliad by Homer and is probably derived from a tragedy of Aeschylus. The mosaic floor in the second room shows a hunting scene with a banquet in the open air among the trees. The female figure in the scene is the personification of Africa.
The scenes on the mosaic found in the second room are reminiscent of the mosaics in the Villa Romana del Casale near Piazza Armerina. However, this mosaic has more stylized figures and two-dimensional, uncertain proportions, making the effect very different. The mosaics were probably the work of craftsmen from North Africa. Based on numismatic evidence, they were made in the second half of the fourth century CE.
The villa has seen renewed interest in recent years, mainly due to a series of reconstruction projects and redevelopment of the site. In 2008, over thirty years after the excavations, it was finally inaugurated and made accessible to the public.References:
Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.
Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.
The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.