Domus Aurea

Emperor Nero's enormous private villa complex beside the Colosseum.

TravelCurious Tip

This is a working archaeological site - be prepared for a hard hat and watch out for slippery floors!

Golden House

The Domus Aurea is the enormously extravagant palatial complex built by the infamous Emperor Nero after the Great Fire of 64 AD. The complex was built in a space which was cleared by the fire (sparking rumours that Nero himself was the arsonist), and covered an area approximately the size of three football fields. It is located today in the valley between the Oppian, Velian, Palatine and Caelian Hills and is right next to the Colosseum.

Domus Aurea means 'golden house,' and this was due to the vast array of gold leaf decoration on the huge villa. There were terraces with lavish columned porticoes, and a huge man-made lake (rumoured to have at one point contained a whale) surrounded by a portico where the Colosseum now stands. In order to construct all this Nero had the ground level of the valley raised 4 metres except for the area that was to be his own private lake where the ground level was lowered.

The party Emperor

Inside were stuccoed ceilings faced with precious stones and ivory veneers; in a feat of swift and elegant execution elaborate frescoes were painted throughout, some of which are still visible and are under strict care so that they are not damaged any further by the damp. For the first time, mosaics were incorporated into the ceilings as well as the floors - although now lost, these had a huge influence on Christian art in the ensuing centuries. Above the central octagonal court was a dome, with an ingenious crank system that allowed the ceiling to revolve like the heavens, while diners were sprinkled with rose petals and perfume.

After Nero’s death another fire damaged a large portion of the complex. The Emperor Trajan had his baths built on top of Nero’s villa, filling it in with rubble. Today the remains of the Domus Aurea are surrounded by a public park on the Oppian Hill - you will see children playing in the playgrounds and amidst the ancient ruins.

Nearby Attractions

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The Roman Empire’s largest amphitheatre, and one of the world’s most awe-inspiring ancient monuments.
Underground Colosseum
Exclusive access to the underground chambers and tunnels of this ancient amphitheatre - an unforgettable experience.
Basilica of San Clemente
This church is on three levels: medieval, early Christian and finally an ancient Roman cult sanctuary.
Arch of Titus
One of Rome's most iconic triumphal arches, and the model for the Parisian Arc de Triomphe.
Arch of Constantine
The largest and most magnificent of Rome's triumphal arches, with a curious history in its sculpture.
Monti District
Formerly Suburra - an ancient Roman neighborhood walled off from the Forum - the neighborhood is now one filled with locals, and the occasional lost tourist.

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