Nero’s Banquet Hall Opens to Public

Although the Roman scholar and official, Suetonius,described Nero as “average height, his body marked with spots and malodorous, his hair light blond, his features regular rather than attractive, his eyes blue and somewhat weak, his neck over thick, his belly prominent, and his legs very slender” in his The Life of Nero, he more than acknowledged Nero’s penchant for luxury.

In late September, one of Nero’s most lavish rooms was discovered during routine maintenance in the Domus Aurea, or Nero’s Golden Palace, in Rome: a revolving banquet hall.

According to Suetonius’ account, “There were dining-rooms with fretted ceils of ivory, whose panels could turn and shower down flowers and were fitted with pipes for sprinkling guests with perfumes. The main banquet hall was circular and constantly revolved day and night, like the heavens.” Lavish, indeed.

At the time of unveiling, lead archaeologist, Francoise Villedieu, said the dig had shed light on the hall’s foundations, the rotating mechanism underneath which is thought to have been powered by a constant flow of water and a space believed to be kitchens.

In late October, the newly discovered area was opened to the public for the first time from the Vigna Barberini Terrace on Palatine Hill. No reservation is required and one ticket grants access to both the Colosseum and Palatine Forum. Tickets can be purchased online and picked up at the Colosseum and cost 9 euros, plus 3 euros extra when there’s an exhibition. — Michael Lowe