Golden House of Nero

Golden House of Nero

Latin  Domus Aurea  

      palace in ancient Rome that was constructed by the emperor Nero between AD 65 and 68, after the great fire of 64 (an occasion the emperor used to expropriate an area of more than 200 acres [81 hectares] of land in the centre of the city). Nero had already planned and begun a palace, the Domus Transitoria, that was to link the existing buildings on the Palatine Hill with the Gardens of Maecenas and other imperial properties on the Esquiline and adjoining hills. To these he added a large part of the Caelian and Oppian hills and the valley between them and the Palatine. This whole area was laid out as a park with porticoes, pavilions, baths, and fountains, and in the centre an artificial lake was made; under the emperor Vespasian the lake was drained to provide a site for the Colosseum. On the slopes of the Velia at the east end of the forum, a grandiose colonnaded approach and vestibule were constructed, within which stood a colossal gilded bronze statue of Nero. The domestic wing of the palace stood on the slopes of the Oppian Hill facing south across the lake.

      Little has survived of the palace. Because the expropriations involved in its building were deeply resented, Nero's successors hastened to put large parts of the palace to public use or to construct other buildings on the land. Of the sumptuous wall paintings and stucco decorations described by Pliny (Pliny the Elder), all that was visible by the 16th century to inspire the grotesques of Raphael and his followers were the wall paintings in the grotte, or caverns, of the palace. After 15 years of restoration work, part of the palace was opened to the public in 1999; however, heavy rains in 2006 weakened the structure and forced the site to close. It was later temporarily reopened, despite ongoing repair work.

      The Golden House is historically important because it expressed the aesthetic of monumental architecture that was to characterize the imperial style of Roman architecture under Domitian, Trajan, and Hadrian.

Additional Reading
A most informative study of the palace is Axel Böethius, The Golden House of Nero: Some Aspects of Roman Architecture (1960, reprinted 1979).

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Universalium. 2010.

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