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

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