Emperor Nero's Decadent Domus Aurea: A Golden Palace of Dreams with Livia Galante

Emperor Nero's Decadent Domus Aurea: A Golden Palace of Dreams with Livia Galante


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We will discover the sumptuous, ornate, grand estate known as the Domus Aurea, or “Golden House,” the lavish imperial residence and a sprawling park covering hundreds of acres in an area known as the Oppian Hill between the Palatine and Esquiline Hills. Through reconstructions, descriptions of ancient authors, plans, the seminar aims to ideally explore the extravagant residence of Nero and its legacy throughout the Renaissance. 

In the night between the eighteenth and the nineteenth of July 64 AD, a devastating fire destroyed much of the center of Rome. Emperor Nero, who had extravagant tastes, took advantage of the disaster to construct a new residence, which for pomp and splendor went down to history by the name of the Domus Aurea. 

The palace was luxurious and excessive, even by the standards of decadent Roman emperors. Designed by architects Severus and Celer and decorated by the painter Fabullus, the palace consisted of a series of buildings separated by gardens, woods and vineyards, and an artificial lake, which lay in the valley where the Colosseum stands today. We’ll learn that, according to Suetonius, “The vestibule of the house was so big it contained a colossal statue 120 feet high, the image of Nero; and it was so extensive that it had three colonnades a mile long. There was a lake too, in fact, a sea, surrounded by buildings as big as cities. Behind it were villas with fields, vineyards, and pastures, woods filled with all kinds of wild and domestic animals. In the rest of the house, everything was coated with gold and adorned with gems and shells. The dining-rooms had fretted ceilings made of ivory, with panels that turned and shed flowers and perfumes on those below. The main banquet hall was circular and constantly revolved day and night, like the heavens. He had baths supplied with seawater and sulfur water.”

After Nero’s death, his successors decided to cancel all traces of the emperor and his palace: the luxurious chambers were deprived of their decorations and filled in with earth up to the vaults to be used as the substructures for other buildings to remain unknown until the Renaissance. We’ll learn that it was only then, after some accidental discoveries by artists with a passion for antiquities, such as Pinturicchio, Ghirlandaio, Raphael, and Giulio Romano, the hidden palace started to be revealed. The underground grotto-like rooms were beautifully decorated with motifs that artists started to copy. Due to their location, they were called “grotesques.” We’ll discuss how even today the term “grotesque painting” is used to indicate a genre–particularly common in the sixteenth century–which imitates the patterns of Roman wall decoration, reworking, and reinterpreting them in playful and imaginative ways.

Led by an expert on Ancient Roman Topography, Livia Galante, this interactive seminar will focus on the Domus Aurea of Nero. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased comprehension of the history of one of the most interesting and complex buildings ever built.

Livia obtained a degree in Archaeology at the Sapienza University of Rome and has a Master's degree in the History and Conservation of Cultural Heritage from the University of Roma Tre. Her main field of interest is ancient Roman topography and early Christian architecture; however, she is an accomplished scholar whose teaching ability extends to the Renaissance and Baroque Rome. As a native Roman, Livia is very enthusiastic about sharing the deep love and knowledge she has for her hometown with clients.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

Customer Reviews

Based on 5 reviews
100%
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E
E.
Detailed and engaging
H
H.S.
Learned so much
S
S.P.
A spectacular tour of Nero's realm
J
J.W.
Whatever Nero was, he built a great golden house and grounds
L
L.
Nero's Crazy Decadent Palace with Livia Galante

Customer Reviews

Based on 5 reviews
100%
(5)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
E
E.
Detailed and engaging
H
H.S.
Learned so much
S
S.P.
A spectacular tour of Nero's realm
J
J.W.
Whatever Nero was, he built a great golden house and grounds
L
L.
Nero's Crazy Decadent Palace with Livia Galante