The Domus Aurea (Latin, "Golden House") was a vast landscaped complex built by the Emperor Nero largely on the Oppian Hill in the heart of ancient Rome after the great fire in 64 AD had destroyed a large part of the city.

It replaced and extended his Domus Transitoria that he had built as his first palace complex on the site.

Construction began after the great fire of 64 and was nearly completed before Nero's death in 68, a remarkably short time for such an enormous project.[1] Nero took great interest in every detail of the project, according to Tacitus,[2] and oversaw the engineer-architects, Celer and Severus, who were also responsible for the attempted navigable canal with which Nero hoped to link Misenum with Lake Avernus.[3][4]

Emperor Otho[5] and possibly Titus allotted money to finish at least the structure on the Oppian Hill; this continued to be inhabited, notably by emperor Vitellius in 69 but only after falling ill,[6] until it was destroyed in a fire under Trajan in 104.[7]

A symbol of decadence that caused severe embarrassment to Nero's successors, the Domus Aurea was stripped of its marble, jewels, and ivory within a decade.[8] Although the Oppian villa continued to be inhabited for some years, soon after Nero's death other parts of the palace and grounds, encompassing 2.6 km2 (c. 1 mi2), were filled with earth and built over: the Baths of Titus were already being built on part of the site, probably the private baths, in 79 AD.[9][10] On the site of the lake, in the middle of the palace grounds, Vespasian built the Flavian Amphitheatre, which could be flooded at will,[11] with the Colossus of Nero beside it.[12] The Baths of Trajan,[12][13] and the Temple of Venus and Roma were also built on the site. Within 40 years, the palace was obliterated. Paradoxically, this ensured the wall paintings' survival by protecting them from moisture.[14][9][15]


When a young Roman inadvertently fell through a cleft in the Esquiline hillside at the end of the 15th century, he found himself in a strange cave or grotto filled with painted figures.[8] Soon the young artists of Rome were having themselves let down on boards knotted to ropes to see for themselves.[16] The Fourth Style frescoes that were uncovered then have faded now, but the effect of these freshly rediscovered grotesque[17] decorations (Italian: grotteschi) was electrifying in the early Renaissance, which was just arriving in Rome.

When Raphael and Michelangelo crawled underground and were let down shafts to study them, the paintings were a revelation of the true world of antiquity.[18] Beside the graffiti signatures of later tourists like Casanova and the Marquis de Sade scratched into a fresco inches apart (British Archaeology June 1999),[19] are the autographs of Domenico Ghirlandaio, Martin van Heemskerck, and Filippino Lippi.[20]

The frescoes' effect on Renaissance artists was instant and profound (it can be seen most obviously in Raphael's decoration for the loggias in the Vatican), and the white walls, delicate swags, and bands of frieze—framed reserves containing figures or landscapes—have returned at intervals ever since, notably in late 18th century Neoclassicism,[21] making Famulus one of the most influential painters in the history of art.

20th century to present

Discovery of the pavilion led to the arrival of moisture starting the slow, inevitable process of decay; humidity sometimes reaches 90% inside the Domus.[18] Heavy rain was blamed for the collapse of a chunk of ceiling.[22] The presence of trees in the park above was causing further damage.[23][10]

The weight of earth on the Domus was also causing a problem.[9][24] Increasing concerns about the condition of the building resulted in its closing at the end of 2005 for further restoration work.[25] The complex was partially reopened in 2007, but closed in 2008 because of safety concerns.[18]

On March 30, 2010, 60 square metres (650 square feet) of the vault of a gallery collapsed.[15]

The Domus reopened in 2014.[26]

^ De la Croix, Horst; Tansey, Richard G.; Kirkpatrick, Diane (1991). Gardner's Art Through the Ages (9th ed.). Thomson/Wadsworth. p. 225. ISBN 0-15-503769-2. ^ Annals XV 42 ^ Warden 1981:272. ^ "Emperor Nero's Golden Palace had a room with a rotating ceiling that dropped perfume and rose petals down on its inhabitants - Page 2 of 2". The Vintage News. 2016-09-18. Retrieved 2019-05-14. ^ Suetonius, Otho 7.1 ^ Cassius Dio, LXV, 4.1. ^ Filippo Coarelli (2014). Rome and Environs: An Archaeological Guide. University of California Press. p. 182. ^ a b "The Domus Aurea: Nero's pleasure palace in Rome". Retrieved 2019-05-14. ^ a b c Rome, Wanted in (2017-07-03). "Domus Aurea: A mad emperor's dream in 3D". Wanted in Rome. Retrieved 2019-05-14. ^ a b "Golden House of an Emperor - Archaeology Magazine". Retrieved 2019-05-14. ^ Br; Specktor, on; May 13, Senior Writer |; ET, 2019 06:42am (13 May 2019). "Archaeologists Discovered a Hidden Chamber in Roman Emperor Nero's Underground Palace". Live Science. Retrieved 2019-05-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link) ^ a b Cite error: The named reference roth was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ Smithsonian magazine, October 2020 ^ "Secret 'Room of the Sphinx' discovered 2,000 years later in Nero's Golden Palace". The Japan Times Online. 2019-05-11. ISSN 0447-5763. Retrieved 2019-05-14. ^ a b theintrepidguide (2016-09-23). "Domus Aurea Rome: Visit Rome's Secret Hidden Palace". The Intrepid Guide. Retrieved 2019-05-14. ^ "The Mysterious Hidden Ruins Near the Colosseum | Rome Blog". Roma Experience. 2018-05-22. Retrieved 2019-05-14. ^ Because of their underground origin, these works were referred to as grotteschi, ("belonging to caves") and their strangeness changed the meaning of the word. ^ a b c "Nero's buried golden palace to open to the public - in hard hats". Reuters. 2014-10-24. Retrieved 2019-05-14. ^ "The buried pleasure palace loved by Michelangelo and Raphael | Art | Agenda". Phaidon. Retrieved 2019-05-14. ^ Mueller, Tom (April 1997). "Underground Rome". The Atlantic. 279 (4): 48–53. Retrieved 20 January 2011. ^ Turney, Alexandra (2017-03-18). "The Domus Aurea in Rome: 5 Reasons to Visit Nero's Palace". HuffPost. Retrieved 2019-05-14. ^ Romey (see sources) ^ Donati, Silvia (2014-06-19). "Rome's Domus Aurea Needs Four-Year Restoration". ITALY Magazine. Retrieved 2019-05-14. ^ Cox, Cheryl (2016-02-01). "The Underground World of the Domus Aurea". planet gusto. Retrieved 2019-05-14. ^ "Domus Aurea". World Monuments Fund. Retrieved 2019-05-14. ^ "Rome's Domus Aurea Reopens after Six-Year Restoration". artnet News. 2014-10-27. Retrieved 2019-05-14.
Photographies by:
Tyler Bell - CC BY 2.0
Andy Montgomery from Birmingham, AL - CC BY-SA 2.0
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