Welcome to my house, shall we party now?
We are finally on day 3 now, are you still with me, my friends? 🙂
I know, it is pretty crazy that the first two days have had so many stuff already! But blame who? Rome has SOOO much to offer, and we are so grateful with so many cultural activities and delicious pasta, risotto, gelato, and repeat… How I want to stay here longer!
Today we are gonna talk about Nero, yes… you are right, he is probably one of the most controversial emperors in Rome’s history. Before our trip, we love to learn some historical story and watching all the movies and shows about the destination. We also had taken a class from Coursera, Rome history, which is really good in which we learned architecture and history at the same time. Although there is not much focus on Nero in this class, I would like to take this opportunity to talk a little bit background of Nero, it’s pretty dramatic and interesting:
Nero, lots of people had heard he is one of the brutal emperors of Rome, probably the most brutal one but usually all we know is the rumor of setting off the great fire… but after I read about his life and visited the domus, I did get a new perspective on his ideas.
The mother of Nero, Agrippina the Younger, who is the sister of Caligula, a famous beauty but ambitious, violent, and domineering woman. She set up the future for his son by marrying Claudius’ daughter Claudia Octavia at 53 AD. and later on, she also married Claudius and he adopted Nero as a stepson. Moreover, persuaded Claudius to choice Nero as successor over his own son. she got what she wanted in the end. Claudius was poisoned and died in hands of Agrippina at 54 AD (poor poor Claudius, I like him) and the 17-year-old Nero became the new emperor of Rome.
Because of her son’s young age, Agrippina tried to rule on his behalf and rumor says, they even had an unusual sexual relationship and Agrippina used sex to control him. Several years passed this way, she was the one behinds the throne, until he got tired of her. The young emperor plotted to kill his mother by arranging for her to board a boat designed to sink, but that plot failed when Agrippina swam safely back to shore. He didn’t give it up, determined to commit matricide, Nero later ordered his mother to be assassinated in her home…
Not only killed his mother, but he is also responsible for killing his two wives and sexual abuse his stepbrother to death… in the later years, he started to show his bisexual interest, he married a young castrated boy Sporus, who was said to bear a remarkable resemblance to Poppaea, the second wife of Nero who was kicked on belly when pregnant in a fight with Nero.
Although so many brutal acts were on the record, to the general public Nero was a welcome change. Like those before him, the early part of Nero’s reign was considered by many to be a mini-golden age — the populace believed him to be generous, kind and accessible. There were lavish games, plays, concerts, chariot races, and gladiatorial tournaments, and taxes were even reduced. He restored much of the Senate’s power that had been lost over the years. He loved music and art, and he was not shy of raising his voice up, he sang in front of people in the party, and no one was allowed to leave until he finished.
It’s still unknown if he set up the fire, he was not in Rome at that time, but there are two things tend to prove he might have done it, First is a story told by Suetonius that when a man said to Nero, ‘When I am dead, let the earth be consumed by fire’, the emperor replied, ‘No, while I live!’ The second reason often offered is that Nero wanted to rebuild Rome according to his own plans, which included a sumptuous new residence for himself, the “Golden House” (Domus Aurea), which we are going to see today. Some people believe he did it, but he denied it and put this on the Christians, therefore, it became an excuse to have big execution of Christians.
In the later ruling period, he became more and more self-centered, he raised the tax to built his new house, By the final years of Nero’s rule, the Roman Empire was under great strain. Reconstruction costs in Rome, revolts abroad forced him to devalue the imperial currency, the conspiracies were everywhere and he orders the deaths of several senators and officers. In 68 AD, the end of his period, he was forced to demise, Nero attempted suicide in the villa, with his freeman along with him, but he failed and needed help to take his own life.
His last words were: “What an artist dies in me!”
Recent years, historians seem to have a different idea of Nero, they claim Nero was not as bad as we have known of, but also not as great as the other great emperors. and those rumors around he set up the fire is political reason behinds, especially Christians’ view of Nero, an Anti-Christ figure. He did definitely took advantage of power to build his house, but at the same time, he also did some revolutionary works, such as reconstruct roads, rebuilt residential districts, and colonnades at street level to shelter to residents from the sun. This time our tour guide, who also tends to the side of Nero, she said he did some works of art that have not done before him. does this part of history triggered your interest to see the so-called Golden house? follow me. 🙂
First of all, I have to mention booking your ticket on the official website https://www.coopculture.it/en/heritage.cfm?id=51, it is a GREAT deal, and we could not say enough how lucky we got the chance to be able to see this. since this archeology site is open in 2017, I will share more detail and tips at the end of this sharing.
Domus Aurea was built in 64-68 AD (poor guy, he died at the same year…so little time to enjoy it! ) and be buried 36 years later, the emperor Trajan was not a fan of Nero, he wanted to build a new public bath on top of the house, so they basically abandon it, the house was forgotten for more than a thousand years.
In the 15th century, one man slipped through a crack in the hillside and fell into a secret underground chamber. he wound up in the deranged Emperor Nero’s resplendent home, hidden underground for centuries. It was a big discovery that local artists and prominent European figures like Michelangelo, Casanova, and Raphael all climbed down to see this new find. the intricate frescoes, ceilings, grotesque and vaults were no longer such a secret. It is said they got inspired by the works so much that we can see the traits show on such as Raphael’s Vatican Stanze.
We walked with our lovely tour guide, Cynthia, if I remember correctly, who is full of passion and enthusiasm of history, we all enjoy her guide that more than an hour. she has a really nice introduction to the whole view of the place, and she points out some architecture designs are special for and why that became great inspirations to those masters later on, such as the shell look of the ceiling. This tour also includes virtual reality and video narration. I really love it very much. to be honest, I never have high hope of those virtual realities feature, but Domus Aurea is really a big surprise, the design is very well, providing a clear idea for the place used to be. This site is still under reconstruction, so they only open on the weekend for tours. I can’t say enough how much I love this tour and highly recommend it for you and all history buffs. Pretty sure when they finally finish the work we will visit here again.
After all, we all had a great time, and we discussed the controversial emperor Nero after this tour. indeed, it gave us a new perspective of Nero, his ideas of art are original and extravagant, but personally, still, think he was responsible for the big fire…compared to the tour of Colosseum, which was nice but have to bear with crowd, Domus Aurea was a much more private experience, feeling so lucky to be able to snap this tour! what do you think of Nero? please feel free to share with me your thoughts!
Tips for visiting Domus Aurea:
1. Book your ticket at official website-https://www.coopculture.it/en/heritage.cfm?id=51 Roma Pass does not help on this case, so better just book here. This archeological site only allowed guided tour, and those guides are official archeologists who work at the site.
2. Print your reservation mail and bring it with you.
3. Please come here early at least 30 mins in advance, since you will need to exchange your reservation mail to the official ticket.
4. So far only open on weekend, since it’s still under reconstruction at weekdays, so highly suggest you put this on your weekend schedule.
5. Google map has not done a good job here… oops, you may be lost if you just search Domus Aurea on google map. so please search Viella Della Domus Aurea this road will lead you to the entrance faster!
6. Claim your space early, since they are not many hours a day, also they divided by language, English, Spanish…etc. a group at one time is about 25 people. so better reserve seats early.
7. Wearing a lightweight coat and walkable shoes. The place is underneath the park, so not much sunlight, the temperature getting colder once you get in, it’s about 12C/50F. They will give you a helmet to wear before you get in for safety issue.
8. The whole tour is about 1 hour.
To see other attractions of Rome stories and tips, click below to see individual posts:
Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain)→ Pantheon & Fontana del Pantheon→ Obelisco Della Minerva (Elephant and Obelisk)→ Church of St. Louis of the French (San Luigi dei Francesi) → Largo di Torre Argentina→ Capitoline Museums