Today the term “the 1%” denotes the wealthiest people in the world. How can we compare today’s wealth to that of the past? The Domus Aurea is the perfect testament to how Roman Emperors were not only super rich – but how they also possessed unlimited power. The Domus Aurea, or “Golden House” of Emperor Nero covered 200 acres and even included a private lake.
1. The Domus Aurea
The Domus Aurea, which literally means “Golden House” was the private residence of Emperor Nero. After a big fire in 64 AD, huge sections of the city were burned down. Consequently, in the middle of the 1st century AD construction began on this amazing Palace. It took 3 years to build and upon completion, Nero was quoted by the famous historian Suetonius as saying
At least I am beginning to be housed like a human being
Recently, certain sections of the Domus Aurea have opened up to the public. Access this incredible historical site on The Roman Guy’s new Domus Aurea Tour with Colosseum Arena Floor Tour.
2. Immense proportions
The palace covered an area of 200 acres. Yes, that is not a misprint- 200 acres. It essentially covered an entire part of the ancient city of Rome – of the 7 hills Rome was founded on, 3 of them were engulfed in the palace. The palace was so extensive that it possessed a triple colonnade a mile long and even a private lake!
Together with the palace, Nero built a 100ft bronze statue of himself known as The Colossus. The name of the statue would eventually be how the name “Colosseum” was applied to the amphitheater built in the same area a few years later. Surprisingly, the statue lasted until at least the 7th century, when the famous English monk, Venerable Bede, wrote the famous lines:
” As long as the Colossus stands, Rome will stand, when the Colossus falls, Rome will also fall, when Rome falls, so falls the world.”
3. Grotesque Art
In the 16th century, the Renaissance was on fire in Italy. Artists would come to Rome for inspiration, including the famous painter, Raphael. Among others, he was known to have dug down into the ruins of the Domus Aurea to study the Ancient Roman paintings.
In these cave-like structures, they would study the ancient paintings which they had never seen before, and once back above ground, they would go and reproduce this style of painting. The name of this particular style was called- Grottesche– from the Italian word Grotto (Cave).
4. Domus Aurea Decoration
Above Nero’s main dining room, was an oculus – dome with a circular opening to allow the light in. This dome was made to revolve like the cosmos above. At the same time, on special occasions they had perfumed water and rose petals drop through the oculus to impress the Emperor’s guests. The entire complex was covered in either painted frescos, beautiful mosaics built with precious stones and gold leaf. This last element is what gave the palace the name – The Golden House (Domus Aurea)
5. What’s left?
After the fall of Nero, Emperor Vespasian damned Nero’s memory and proceeded to destroy much of what he built. He then re-used existing structures to build new structures dedicated to the people of Rome. By far the most famous of new structures, which was built from draining the artificial lake was the the Flavian Amphitheater, known to us today as none other than The Colosseum.
- Interested in visiting the Domus Aurea? Check out our new Colosseum Areana Floor Tour with Ancient Villa Explorations
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