The villa system in the Roman-era Latin Coast functioned as a form of colonial economic control and development, parallel to the more administrative functions of the cities whose economic importance was slower to develop. Most of the villas were not like the luxurious aristocratic country retreats of the Mediterranean. Their owners were often absentee investors or even the imperial administration itself, but they were managed by local families who chose the right side during the Claudian Wars.
It is difficult for archeologists to define villas. The reason for this is the recovered residences are varied in size and style, often determined by the underlying economic function. However, all sites labeled as villas contain Roman architectural elements found in homes throughout the empire (mosaics, porticos, columns, and square ground plans).
At first the new Roman masters physically changed very little in the province, they simply refined the rural economic system in an already intensely farmed landscape. The Roman landlords did this refining by technological improvements, enhancing economic structures (including the transport of goods and raw materials to larger markets) and developing trade inland (see Roman Road).