Precinct 333

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Geek Alert -- Ancient History

The hottest spot in Rome during the reign of Nero was Caesar's Palace.

Sorry, I couldn't help myself.

It was actually the Domus Aurea -- the Golden House -- that he buit for himself after burning the city.

After his death, it was buried as part of a campaign to wipe out Nero's memory.

Now the Domus Aurea has been found.

The entombment of the palace was meant to make everyone forget Nero. Instead, it conserved, as if in amber, his residential compound as few ancient sites in Rome have been preserved. This week, almost 2,000 years after Nero's rule, Rome city officials unveiled a new find from the palace that offers a tantalizing hint of the treasures buried beneath the hill. It is a large mosaic, more than 9 by 6 feet, showing naked men harvesting grapes and making wine, a typical illustration for a Roman palace of the time. Three of the men are stomping on grapes in a vat. One plays a double flute. They all seem to be having fun.

The mosaic adorns a giant arch buried in Colle Oppio, the hill on which Nero's palace stood. The arch was probably part of a large hall. Grottoes and tunnels extend from four exits -- leading to as yet unknown finds.

"Colle Oppio is a giant scrap yard," said Eugenio La Rocca, the city's adviser for monumental assets. "There is doubtless much more underneath. Everything has been sealed. There are acres of a city quarter in there."

Makes a guy want to get out his fedora and bullwhip so he can go out and paly Indiana Jones.


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