Nero’s revolving dining room found?

Bust of Nero, NaplesSuetonius described a circular banquet hall with a perpetually revolving floor in Nero’s Golden House. People have thought he was talking about the famed octagonal hall and was just confused about the shape and which part of it moved.

A remarkable structure uncovered during routine structural support work on the Palatine Hill, however, suggests that the floor might indeed have revolved to mimic the movement of the heavens.

The dig so far has turned up the foundations of the room, the rotating mechanism underneath and part of an attached space believed to be the kitchens, she said.

“This cannot be compared to anything that we know of in ancient Roman architecture,” Villedieu told reporters during a tour of the cordoned-off dig.

She said the location of the discovery atop the Palatine Hill, the rotating structure and references to it in ancient biographies of Nero make the attribution to the emperor most likely.

Huge pillar underneath the floorThe dining room is 50 feet in diameter. The pillar underneath it is 13 feet wide, the largest one known in Roman architecture. Four spherical structures surround it, filled with an unidentified dark substance that archaeologists have sent to be analyzed.

There are also 7 arches underpinning the floor of the dining room, 4 on the top level (one of them complete), and 3 on the bottom level. Presumably the pillar, spheres and arches were all part of the rotating mechanism.

It’s not confirmed that this is the dining room Suetonius mentioned. There are no inscriptions or specific indicators, but the structure was definitely built after the great fire of 64 A.D. and before the Senate declared him an enemy of the state after his death in 68 A.D.

Its astonishing grandeur and architectural complexity certainly suggests it was imperial work, and the Domus Aurea was extravagant beyond anything seen before or after. It covered 200 acres over 4 of Rome’s 7 hills and included a massive lake which was drained by the Flavians to build the Colosseum.

That dining room would have had a prime view of the lake, in fact, and its waters might even have powered the revolving mechanism.

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6 Comments »

Comment by jonathan
2009-09-30 11:28:09

after centuries of archaeological research, we still find things, important things, by accident. Amazing and frustrating all at once.

End.

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Comment by livius drusus
2009-09-30 11:33:09

Well, you’re pretty much guaranteed a major find if you’re digging on the Palatine. Cities like Rome are just layers upon layers of archaeological marvels. There will always be something new to be uncovered.

 
 
Comment by Mr Lemming
2009-10-02 17:51:43

Nifty stuff! Never heard of it until now.

Comment by livius drusus
2009-10-02 22:59:56

Me either! Well okay, I heard of it a couple of days ago, but you know what I mean. :giggle:

 
 
Comment by Bryn
2012-03-10 15:32:26

We just got back an hour ago from wandering around the digs in Rome, where we had come across that dig (by accident). We’d never heard of it, and so I went on the web to try to find out if more had come to light. The sign mentioned that the unidentified substance had been sent for testing, but I’m not finding any references to the results. Fascinating. Truly there is nothing new under the sun.

Comment by livius drusus
2012-03-12 01:28:55

Oh wow, you are so lucky! I want to stumble on Nero’s revolving dining room by accident.

 
 
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