Friday, August 28, 2015


Shrine with simple plan and only two rooms with parts in opus reticulatum (reticulated work) of the Augustan period (27 BC/14), but almost entirely rebuilt in concrete covered with bricks by Hadrian (117/138)
Some scholars have mistakenly identified it with the Auguratorium, the place where the priests known as Auguri, in charge of forecasting the future, used to take the so called auspices before a major event, observing the flight of birds facing southeast

Instead, it is probably the SACELLO DI VICTORIA VIRGO (Shrine of Victoria Virgo) built in 193 BC by Marcus Cato Porcio next to the Temple of Victory
In the foundations an earlier archaic shrine was found, made out of big square blocks of “cappellaccio” stone, covered by a late-Republican concrete construction, probably corresponding to the ancient Sacello di Iuno Sospita (Shrine of Juno Sospita)

Eighteen rooms in concrete covered with bricks dating around the age of Nero (54/68)
On the VAULTS there are remains of fresco paintings, unfortunately very damaged, dated around the third century AD
The numerous graffiti led to suppose that it was a sort of service areas, perhaps intended for guards
Here was found the beautiful statue of Charis now in the Palatine Museum

Next to the House of Livia there are two circular tanks close together dating back to the archaic period

House attributed to Livia, wife of Augustus, after the discovery of some lead pipes with the inscription Iulia Augusta
It was excavated in 1869 by Pietro Rosa for Napoleon III
The house is datable to the first century BC, but at least two different phases of construction have been recognized: 75/50 BC for the walls in opus reticulatum (concrete covered with bricks) and about 30 BC for the paintings

All rooms have remains of mosaic floors in simple black and white colors
The access to the dwelling, located at a lower level compared to the surrounding buildings, is down a HALLWAY with a black and white mosaic floor, which leads to a room known as ATRIUM with two pillars supporting the roof
It is more likely, however, that the true atrium was the so-called ROOM H where there are maybe elements of the impluvium (rectangular flat-bottomed tank to collect rainwater) surrounded by cubiculi (small bedrooms)

On the end side there are THREE ROOMS of which the central one is larger than the lateral ones, while on the right end side of the atrium there is maybe a triclinium with a fresco of landscape and an imageless symbol (betilo) of Diana

The TABLINUM in the center is the most important room from the pictorial point of view, even if the frescoes have faded, and it is difficult to clearly see the images
These paintings have been classified as belonging to an advanced stage of the second Pompeian style
The wall on the right is divided into three by a portico with Corinthian columns resting on high bases
The central aedicula depicts “Io, beloved by Jupiter, freed by Mercury from Argo's captivity”, a copy of a famous painting by Nikias. The girl sits at the foot of a column supporting a statue, while there are Argo on the right and Mercury on the left
On the wall on the left “Open window overlooking a busy city with various street scenes”
In the central panel of the wall “Nymph Galatea of the sea horse as she fled from Polyphemus”

In the HALL TO THE RIGHT OF THE TABLINUM still stands out the wall decoration on the left, in square panels, with festoons of leaves, flowers and fruits from which rural symbols hang
In the upper part there is a beautiful frieze on a yellow background, faded now, with “Scenes of Egyptian Life”
In the HALL TO THE LEFT OF THE TABLINUM walls are decorated with a system similar to the one of the other two rooms, with columns and pilasters on a lower part of fake marble, without any scene representing figures

Great elliptical basin with internal steps. It is assumed that it was used as a vivarium or breeding ground for fish

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


One of the most important buildings of the Palatine Hill, inaugurated in 28 BC with a solemn ceremony
The building was constructed entirely with white marble from Carrara and its doors were covered with gold and ivory

It had a portico of columns in yellow marble from Tunisia embellished with fifty statues of the Danaides in black marble placed between the columns whereas the cult statues of Apollo, Artemis and Leto (respectively by Scopas, Timotheos and Kephisodotos) were brought from Greece
In the base of the statue of Apollo were kept in golden reliquaries the Sibylline Books that Augustus wanted to move here from the Temple of Jupiter on Capitoline Hill

The nine Sibylline Books, according to Roman tradition, contained the destiny of Rome and had been offered to the king, Tarquin the Proud from a Sibyl at a price that the king thought too high
The Sibyl then burned three books and offered the remaining six but at the same previous price and the king refused again
The Sibyl then burned three more books and this time the king, on the advice of the priests, bought the remaining three always at the same price
They were kept in the Temple of Jupiter until the fire of 83 BC burned them
They were rewritten from copies and put by Augustus in the Temple of Apollo

Now it remains only the core of the podium in concrete (44 x 24 m - 145 x 79 feet)
Of the rich marble decorations remain only a few fragments with religious and mythical subjects connected with the cult of Apollo, part of the face and a foot of the statue of Apollo and three herms in black marble representing the Danaides now in the Palatine Museum

Augustus (27 BC/14) lived here for about 40 years from about 30 BC
He chose to live on the Palatine Hill because that's where he was born, and because he wanted to make a clear juxtaposition between his political image and that of Romulus, who had founded the city and lived here
His decision was followed by the other emperors who lived on the hill as well and also extended the imperial seat, the PALATIUM, the palace par excellence
The house consists of a series of rooms on two terraces
In the lower terrace, the rooms excavated, built in square blocks of tufa, are based on two files and huddled up in a massive concrete wall that was used to hold the ground above
The house was restored by Augustus after the fire of AD 3 and is divided into a PRIVATE WING with some small, simple rooms and a PUBLIC WING, near the temple of Apollo, with large and lavish rooms, stucco ceilings and marble floors

The house was buried at the time of Nero (54/68) and replaced by a large rectangular enclosure, within which were placed at least three major bases for colossal statues and maybe a temple, probably a shrine of the imperial cult, the Aedes Caesarum in Palatio

In the PRIVATE WING there are two adjacent rooms:
The “Room of the Masks” maybe the bedroom of Augustus with a rich architectural decoration inspired by the theater scenes with, in the center of each wall, a representation of a rural sanctuary
The “Room of Festoons Pine” maybe Livia's bedroom, with a decorative pattern consisting of pine garlands placed between the wooden pillars of a porch located on a podium

In the PUBLIC WING there is a decoration with paintings of more sophisticated architectures:
The “Black-walled Room” is divided into panels by pilasters in bright red and yellow bands at the corners
In the “Western Library” the decoration is divided into two parts: in the atrium large yellow panels stand out on a red background and, on the inside, the red background is limited by green and yellow bands

The rooms defined by the numbers 8 and 9 have a decoration of a simple type
In the “Room of Perspective” is the representation of a two-story building projected forward creating an effect of perspective

The following rooms are accessible to the public:
 “Ramp” that used to lead from the house to the temple of Apollo with alternation between light and dark colors
Great “Pillared Hall” with inlaid marble floors and vaulted stucco
Small “Square Room” with inlaid marble floor and decorative painting on the walls divided into purple panels open outwards
“Study of Augustus” very interesting for the variety and sophistication of the paintings: the decorative scheme is the usual one, consisting of the podium, ortostati (clay slabs leaning or hanging on a wall for decoration) and upper area where the prevailing colors are red, yellow and black
On the ceiling there is a refined alternating of stucco and painted panels

Traces of three huts, built on the tufa stone of the hill, discovered in 1907 and studied in 1948
The huts dated back to around the eighth century BC and are considered by the Roman tradition the home of Romulus, the first king and the founder of Rome
The largest hut was measuring 4.9 x 3.6 m (16 x 12 feet) and had seven holes along the perimeter (three intermediate and four at the corners) corresponding to the support poles. The door was on the short side to the south, preceded by a small portico based on two poles
The sloping roof was thatched with reeds, and the walls were covered with clay
At the center there was a fireplace and on the outside a channel for rainwater

Several structures built in peperino blocks and in opus latericium (concrete covered with bricks) maybe part of multi-storey residential buildings
The Cataloghi Regionari, a document of the beginning of the fourth century AD, reports that in Rome there were 89 domus (houses) and 2742 insulae (apartment blocks)
Rome was therefore much more like modern Rome, made up of apartment buildings, than a city that consisted mainly of villas like Pompeii

It has been identified as the remains of the so-called fortification walls of the Palatine Hill built in square and rectangular interlocking blocks, made out of gray tufa from the quarries in Fidenae with carbonaceous fragments and of tufa from Grotta Oscura
It is maybe, however, just a terrace wall of the hill

One of the ancient entrances to Palatine Hill
They were the stairs that were climbed, according to Virgil, by Aeneas with King Evander
They derive their name from the giant Cacus, foe of Hercules and consisted of alternating steps and ramps located on the hillside by the side of the Circus Maximus

Temple dedicated to the worship of the Great Mother Cybele introduced in 204 BC after consulting the Sibylline Books
It was venerated in Pessinus in Turkey under the appearance of an elongated conical black stone, probably a meteorite
The statue was brought to Rome and placed temporarily in the Temple of Victory on the Palatine
The temple was Corinthian and hexastyle on high stairs as well as prostyle, i.e. without columns on the sides

The construction ended in 191 BC and at the dedication on April 11 the Ludi Megalensi (games in honor of the goddess) began for which Plautus and Terence wrote some of their best works
The statue of the goddess discovered near the temple is now in the Palatine Museum
The current base of the temple is certainly original. The restorations in opus reticulatum (reticulated work) are subsequent to the fire in 111 BC and some fragments of columns and pediment are subsequent to the fire of AD 3
On a marble base there is a dedication to the Great Mother of Gods Idea “M(ater) D(eum) M(agna) I(daea)”
Recent excavations have identified, to the east of the temple, the foundations and the remains of the podium of a temple identified as the TEMPLE OF VICTORY, built in 294 BC by the consul Lucius Postumius Megello

Saturday, August 22, 2015


Built for Domitian (81/96) between 81 and 96 by the architect Rabirius, occupying the whole central part of the Palatine Hill

It was built entirely in concrete covered with bricks and fronted on the west side by a colonnade of cipolin marble, later replaced by brick pillars, which also had to continue on the north side where the main entrance was

It was the public and representative wing of the Imperial Palace, the private wing was the Domus Augustana

Three series of rooms arranged on three sides of a rectangular peristyle, surrounded by a portico with columns of Numidian marble and with a central octagonal fountain

At the center of the north side there is a huge room known as AULA REGIA (royal hall) where the emperor, seated on a throne in the semicircular apse at the opposite side of the entrance, used to receive and give audience

The room (30.5 x 38.7 m - 100 x 127 feet) had also marble columns covered with colored marble and with niches for statues
The roof was probably slanted (i.e. inclined towards the outside, sending rain water toward the outer walls) with wooden coffered ceiling

On the sides of the Aula Regia there were two smaller rooms:

The west one known as BASILICA, built on the former Aula Isiaca (House of Isis), rectangular, with apse and divided into three naves by a double row of columns in yellow marble from Tunisia and maybe an auditorium for meetings of the Imperial Board

The one on the east, called erroneously LARARIUM, built on the House of the Griffins, was perhaps the seat of the Praetorian Guard

On the west side of the peristyle there is a wing of connection between the two main areas of the palace, formed by an octagonal room with four apses and two side rooms symmetrical and elliptical

To the south there is a large hall with an apse at the center paved with polychrome and set on a “vespaio” (crawl space) where in the cold months hot air was circulating, identified as the TRICLINIUM and cited in sources with the name of COENATIO JOVIS
The room had a semicircular apse elevated on a step and had the sides opened with large windows over two symmetrical nymphea with monumental oval fountains

Located under the so-called BASILICA in the west part of the Domus Flavia
Rectangular room only partially preserved with the short apsidal added later on, relevant to a stately home of the Republican period
Its name derives from the many decorative motifs referring to the Egyptian cult of Isis and Serapis, as the garland of roses on the net, the lotus, the serpent with flat body
The paintings date to about 30/25 BC and are considered to be an example of advanced second Pompeian style
The paintings are now kept in a room in the Loggia Mattei in the Domus Augustana area

Under the so-called LARARIUM in the east of the Domus Flavia is the most interesting republican house found in Rome, called “of the Griffins” for the stucco decoration of one lunette
The paintings are dated to late second or early first century BC (the house was older) and are the oldest of the second Pompeian style extant in the world with illusionistic representation of columns that are detached from the walls even if they don't open to prospective backgrounds as in the second advanced style

It is present here again the structure of a wall in blocks that in the first style was made of stucco
The more complete paintings are now in a deposit adjacent to the Palatine Museum and in-situ there are less complete walls, the lunette with griffins and some mosaics
One of these mosaics has a small central square area with stones and colorful marbles: it's the floor known as scutulatum which is also to be found in the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus in Rome and in the House of the Faun in Pompeii

At the side of the complex of S. Bonaventure are the remains of a construction in concrete covered with bricks: it might be a nympheum (fountain) or a building for the water distribution system