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Archaeology's Guide to the Domus Aurea
Nero's Golden House

In A.D. 64, fourth-fifths of Rome was devastated by fire. Some blamed Nero for the catastrophe, noting that it cleared out commercial districts that separated his land holdings in the city. Whether Nero set the fire or not, it allowed him to construct the Domus Aurea, the Golden House, a palace occupying three of the fabled seven hills of Rome. A revolutionary masterpiece, the Domus Aurea marked the first use of concrete as the building material of choice for fine architecture and the break with Greek design based on solids--the walls, the columns, and the entablatures they support. Using vaulted architecture in concrete, Nero's architects instead arranged a harmony of simple shapes--rectangular and triangular prisms, cubes, octagons, and hemi-cylinders--consisting of empty space. To decorate his new palace, Nero had the finest painter in Rome imprisoned in it. Within 60 years of its construction, however, the Golden House had been stripped bare of its fine marble, and demolished or buried by later emperors who legitimized their own rule by destroying Nero's works or made use of his buildings as the foundations for their own. Today, the Esquiline Wing of the Golden House is virtually all that remains. Closed to the public in the early 1980s because of its deteriorating condition, it was once again open to visitors in 1999.

NOTE: Recent heavy rain has weakened the 2,000-year-old brick and plaster walls and ceilings. Parts of the Domus Aurea will remain closed throughout 2008 due to structural damage. Click here for info on visiting.

Follow in the footsteps of Nero with ARCHAEOLOGY's Guide to the Domus Aurea, authored by Larry F. Ball of the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, and illustrated with the photographs of ARCHAEOLOGY contributing editor Giovanni Lattanzi.

This exclusive guide to Nero's palace is available as a downloadable PDF file for $3.95, billable to your credit card. Simply click here to purchase your copy of ARCHAEOLOGY's Guide to the Domus Aurea.

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© 2007 by the Archaeological Institute of America