Rome Sights to See - Nero's Domus Aurea
One of the more recent sights to see in Rome
is actually one of the more
ancient. The Golden
House of Nero, at least what remains of it, has been
excavated and, happily for the visitor to Rome, the ruins are now
available for public viewing. Though re-discovered during the Renaissance, they were the subject of a
massive restoration project near the end of the 20th century.
Constructed in 64 AD after the incredibly devastating fire that burned
two-thirds of Rome (during which legend has it Nero fiddled...although the fiddle
had not been invented yet), the Golden House (Domus Aurea)
archaeological treasure trove. At one time many parts were covered with
gold foil and the ceiling festooned with ivory and jewels by the
extravagant emperor. Alas, these are not on display. They were stripped
from the palace shortly after Nero's death.
Originally the palace and the surrounding structures covered 350 acres which included a man-made lake, vineyards and the house itself. Terming the
a house, however, is misleading. It contained 300 rooms, but is
thought to have had no sleeping quarters. None that were intentional,
at least. No doubt many passed out where they were during the parties
for which Nero was famed, and probably many other actions were
performed which were customarily reserved for the sleeping quarters.
It was the original site of a huge statue which Nero had made, bearing
his own likeness of course, that was later relocated to outside the
Colosseum. Only the bronze base of the 40m/130ft statue can be
seen there today, however.
Though much of the original structure(s) has been destroyed over the
centuries, there still remains
enough to satisfy anyone looking to spend an interesting hour or two
tour in a cool place. That's always welcome in Rome, where the
temperature can be in the mid-80s even in late October.
The underground, audio-guided tour offers enormous, vaults decorated with frescoes, and many other rooms to explore. The frescoes painted by Fabullus, a
noted artist of the period were executed in a style popular in Pompeii, the doomed city not far from Rome.
The Renaissance artist Raphael
used them as models for some of his own
work, and many Renaissance artists - including Michaelangelo - went
visit the (then) newly discovered palace frescoes. Both artists left
their signatures scratched in the walls, to be later joined by such
luminaries as Casanova
and the Marquis de Sade.
The tour shows a wide variety - some areas are shadowed ruins with
barely visible carvings. Others are fully restored golden and marble
walls with largely intact paintings and fireplaces.
Grottos abound in the underground area, but the most impressive portion
is unquestionably the Octagon
Room. Here Nero, a great fan of Greek
art, housed a statue of the Dying
Gaul, which can now be seen in the
Outside, there are gardens and a reconstruction of the octagonal room
that allow the visitor to clearly imagine what living there must have
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