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Rome Reports

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Achilles fresco discovered in Domus Aurea, palace of Emperor Nero


Nearly 2,000 years ago, these walls were covered in gold and precious stones. The Domus Aurea, “Golden House” in Latin, was the palace of Emperor Nero. Its estimated 155 rooms spanned 16,000 square feet. 

ALFONSINA RUSSO
Director, Colosseum Archaeological Park

“It was completely covered in gold, pearls and precious stones. That's where its name comes from, because of the light it exuded. It's dark today, but in Nero's time, it was full of light because the light that entered through windows and doors reflected off of the stones, so it appeared golden.”

Little by little, each room's secrets are revealed. The one chosen this time contains frescoes of Achilles, one of the most important warriors in Homer's Illiad. These works of art have resisted time and now return to their former selves. 

ALFONSINA RUSSO
Director, Colosseum Archaeological Park

“This intervention has been able to showcase the specific techniques used to decorate the vault of the room of Achilles in Esciro. It's a precious vault from the scene in the Illiad when Achilles hides in Esciro thanks to his mother, Teti, to avoid his own death in the war of Troy. It's been possible to identify golden paper and a blue used by Egyptians. They're unique particularities of a design complete with precious stones.”

Inside these walls, Nero hosted grand parties full of luxury and important public figures of the time. It was built in 64 AD, following the Great Fire of Rome, in only four years. 

Following the emperor's death, the Domus was buried by construction and wasn't discovered until 1480, during the renaissance. 

ALFONSINA RUSSO
Director, Colosseum Archaeological Park

“The Domus Aurea was discovered during the Renaissance. Once this happened, great painters like Pinturicchio and Raphael came here. They, as well as many other artists, were inspired by what they found here. Grand buildings and monuments from the Renaissance were inspired by the Domus Aurea.”

This imperial palace served as a model of art and architecture for the future. In the Sistine Chapel itself and in Castel Sant'Angelo, there are images identical to those found in the Domus. 

They don't call it the Eternal City for nothing. While they seem to have been left behind, Rome's art and history secrets demonstrate, yet again, their refusal to be forgotten forever.