Domus Aurea - Nero’s Golden House

"Domus Aurea - Nero’s Golden House" submitted by RomeTour Editorial Team and last updated on Monday 4th July 2011

This enormous complex construction (50 hectares) compound of palaces, gardens and lake was erected by two architects of emperor Nero, Severus and Celerus, after the fire of Rome in 64 A.D. and expanded from the slopes of the Celian and Palatine till the Oppian and Esquiline Hills. The main part of the palace was on the site of the Palace of Tiberius and Caligula (Palazzo di Tiberio e di Caligola) on the Palatine Hill; the gardens with the lake were in the valley now occupied by the Colosseum. Immediately after the death of tyrant, to who the fire of Rome was assigned, the huge area that was occupied by his patrimony was restored to the city.

Domus Aurea
Domus Aurea (Nero’s Golden House) was the largest and most sumptuous of the imperial residences extending from the Palatine Hill as far as the Colle Oppio and part of the Caelius Mountain covering about one square mile. It included an artificial lake, gardens, and a wood. The architects were Severus and Celeris,while the paintings were by a certain Fabullus or Famulus. The rooms were finely decorated and enriched by many statues that came from Greece and Asia Minor.

In 72 Vespasian obliterated the lake to build the Colosseum; Domitian built on the site of the buried palace on the Palatine his own palaces; Trajan destroyed the houses on the Oppian to build his baths; Hadrian built his Temple of Venus and Rome on the place of the vestibule, where formerly the statue of Nero stood, and moved it in front of the Colosseum.

The remains of the Domus Aurea villa include a nymphaeum, with the vault mosaics, and a long cryptoporticus decorated with grotesques.

Successively the Thermae Traiani were built on the Domus Aurea after filling in its rooms and plugging its accesses. The building of the Thermae allowed the conservation of some rooms of the Domus Aurea up to our times. Ever since its discovery during the Renaissance, many artists, who put their signatures high up on the walls where they can still be seen today, let themselves down into the caves of the underground rooms of the Domus Aurea to copy the paintings on the vaults by candlelight. The main core of the Domus Aurea consists of two pentagonal courtyards that act as a connection between the western and the eastern sectors. There is a large octagonal room between the courtyards with a pavilion vault that according to Svetonius revolved unceasingly day and night.
Domus Aurea (Nero’s Golden House). inside Domus Aurea
Because of its underground position, the halls of the palace were explored as the caves or grottoes by the Renaissance artists (Pinturicchio, Ghirlandaio, G.da Udine), who imitated the strange paintings and forms of vegetables and animals found here in their own works, and gave the name to this kind of artistic style "grotesques" (it. "grottesche").

The walls were decorated up to a certain level with marble slabs now lost, while the upper part and the ceilings were decorated with paintings and stuccoes of mythical figures (Achilles and Scirus, Ulysses and Polyphemus, Hector and Andromache). The rooms are now dark and gloomy (all the openings having been plugged for the construction of the thermae rising above), but originally light was the predominant feature when all the rooms were open on the portico that offered a fine view of the valley with its artificial lake and the gardens that surrounded it.
Statue of a muse in the newly reopened Domus Aurea.
The famous group Laocoon was found here in the 16th century (now in Vatican Museums). Most of the rooms of the Domus Aurea had fresco, stucco and mosaic decorations. "Nero gave the best parties, ever," archaeologist Wallace-Hadrill told an interviewer when the Golden House was reopened to visitors in 1999 after being closed for years for restorations. "Three hundred years after his death, tokens bearing his head were still being given out at public spectacles - a memento of the greatest showman of them all." Nero, who was obsessed with his status as an artist, certainly regarded parties as works of art. His official party planner was Petronius.

Note: Closed to the public for restoration and consolidation work until further notice.

Domus Aurea -Nero’s Golden House
Via della Domus Aurea, 1
00184 , Rome, Lazio, Italy
Zone: Rione Monti (Colosseo - S.Giovanni - S.Maria Maggiore) (Roma centro)
Domus Aurea -Nero’s Golden House is Shown By "Map K Zone" As "64"
Telephone: 0039 06 39967700

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