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Domus Aurea: The Emperor Nero's Golden Home
The Emperor Nero's dream-home materialized shortly after 64 A.D. and rose from the ash of the Great Fire. The smouldering ruins in the Celian-Esquiline hill district were the excuse Nero was looking for to confiscate private property from its local land-holders. He amassed such an enviable tract of land, that a satirist commented, "Roma domus fiet: Veios migrate Quirites/si non et Veios occupat ista domus" (Suetonius 6, 39) A simple translation reads, "Rome is now one huge home: Romans, migrate to the town Veio! ...that is, if that home hasn't sprawled all the way to Veio! " Nero's new palaces, referred to as the Domus Aurea, were indeed a sprawling Texas ranch in the middle of a bustling metropolis: Nero's property extended from the Palatine hill to the Esquiline hill and from the Esquiline to the Celian; his property was dotted with lavish apartments overlooking vineyards and fruit-tree, expensive statuary and garden art, not to mention an Olympic-sized duck-pond and a monumental fountain a l Niagra Falls. Nero's opening statement at the inauguration of the Domus Aurea, was "Quasi hominem tandem habitare coepisse " (Suetonius 6, 31) or "At last, I can begin to live like a human being! "

The Domus Aurea was, perhaps, too much of a good thing. The Emperor Nero's successors lived in the Golden Home with difficulty, or they refused to use the outrageous and somewhat inconvenient structure. The Emperor Trajan decided to destroy it and all it represented. He recuperated the expensive marbles and precious gems from the home before he had the abominable structure buried. Trajan intended, in part, to condemn Nero's memory to oblivion and, in part, he hoped to use the buried mass of the Domus Aurea as an enormous platform onto which he might extend his new public baths. Trajan actually did us a favor when he buried the mad Emperor's fantastical Domus. That is, he preserved Nero's home for posterity, burying it like a time-capsule that would eventually be uncovered to the marvel of all.

Recently part of the Emperor Nero's palaces and pleasure pavilions have been opened to the public. Visits must be booked in advance and are, unfortunately, timed by Rome's Archeological Superintendency to last a medium of 45 minutes. Those 45 minutes, however, may be one of the most bizarre glances into the ancient world that Rome can offer!

As you enter the Golden Home, your imagination works overtime: the site is now immersed in dirt and semidarkness. If you were Nero's guests, however, you would enjoy his home as shafts of sunlight danced on gold-leaf and gems imbedded in the walls; warm breezes would filter in through the rooms causing light linen draperies to billowed in the windows; as you sipped an excellent vintage of red wine, you would stroll from room to room, marveling at the Emperor's fanciful sculpture collection. You can imagine it all still perfectly today!

The two sites, San Clemente and the Domus Aurea can be visited together on the same day or be seen separately.

The entrance ticket to the Domus Aurea costs € 6.50 and is booked in advance.
The entrance ticket to the underground sites of San Clemente is € 3

 

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