I visited Lullingstone a couple of years ago now but I did take the photographs below. It is a modest country villa on the River Darenth in north Kent. It was erected in 1st Century AD but later rebuilt and decorated in luxurious style in the 4th Century with mosaic and wall paintings. The superb mosaic shows the abduction of Europa by Jupiter disguised as a bull after Greek mythology. The centre panel not clear on my image shows Bellerophon riding Pegasus and spearing the Chimaera, a three headed monster, also a fabulous creature from Greek mythology.
Click thumbnails for a LARGER image
Lullingstone villa was discovered in 1939,
although its existence had been known of since the turn of the 18th
century when a tessellated pavement was found. Excavation had to wait
for a war - work on the site started after WWII. It is built quite close
to the river and is backed on its northwest side by a steep bank.
The house has a superb 4th-century bath suite comprising, from foreground backwards, (image 3); frigidarium, tepidarium and caldarium and a furnace, built against the south wall when the villa was at its most prosperous we assume (see plan on right). Both the cold and warm rooms had tessellated floors but the hot room was tiled. A shrine dedicated to three water nymphs was built at the same time ca. AD180; it contains a niche (see my images 2 & 6). This nymphaeum, set deep in the building and accessed by steps down to it, it had a concrete floor and rendered wall decorated with palms and other Mediterranean motifs.
The Temple Mausoleum
At some time around AD280, after, it seems, the villa was abandoned for some time, a new building phase was started and the nymphaeum was access closed off. Other demolitions and constructions in and around the site took place at this time too (see table below). Eventually the nymphaeum was demolished and a new vaulted-roof temple (because of presence of voussiors) was built outside above the villa cut into the bank (see plan left). At first this was a mausoleum just dug into the chalk but later a temple was constructed over it. Two burials, one of a young man the other a young woman in their early twenties, in lead coffins embossed scallop shells, were found here under the temple. The skeletons had grave goods with them: two each of a flagon, glass bottle, glass bowl, knives and spoons and some sort of Roman game.
The villa is thought to have been largely destroyed by fire early in the beginning of the 5th century and no further signs of occupation have been found after about AD420. This is some ten years after the Roman occupation of Britain had ceased.
This is the strange cryptic text in the mosaic; debate has it that it refers to Christianity in some way and comes from the Aeneid, Book 1, pp.150 and references also in Ovid Metamorphoses Book 11, pp.835-75, the inscription translates as: "If jealous Juno had seen the swimming of the bull, she would with more justice have gone all the way to the halls of Aeolus." The image of Bellerophon killing the Chimaera is also supposed to be a reference to Christianity as well; it has been interpreted as the fight of good over evil or Christianity over Paganism. This is evidence perhaps that the original occupants of the villa may have been pagans worshipping a water deity and that these people were later replaced by Christians (it occurs to me perhaps hiding their beliefs for some reason).