Saving the Golden House

Digs & Discoveries September/October 2014

(Marco Merola and Lorenzo Colantoni)

The Domus Aurea, or “Golden House,” is one of the most important monuments in Rome, but it is also at great risk. Built by the emperor Nero between A.D. 58 and 64, the staggering property in the heart of imperial Rome might have sprawled across as many as 300 acres, though its true extent is difficult to judge. The main villa of the complex has more than 300 rooms, including an octagonal dining room with a revolving domed roof, walls inlaid with jewels and gold, ceilings covered in mosaics, and brightly colored frescoes on nearly every wall and vaulted ceiling. But for all its splendor, the Domus Aurea has been closed since 2005 for safety reasons—and a ceiling vault collapsed in 2010. Persistent problems with drainage and moisture threaten both its structural stability and its decorations. Recently, the archaeological superintendency of Rome embarked on the last phase of an ambitious restoration project. “We hope,” says superintendent Mariarosaira Barbera, “that the Domus Aurea can be visited again by 2018, and that it will last another 2,000 years.”

  • Artifacts September/October 2014

    Silver Figurine

    Read Article
    (Courtesy Claus Feveile/Østfyns Museum)
  • Around the World September/October 2014


    Read Article
    (Photo: Don Rice)
  • Digs & Discoveries September/October 2014

    Your Face: Punching Bag or Spandrel?

    Read Article
  • Features September/October 2014

    Erbil Revealed

    How the first excavations in an ancient city are supporting its claim as the oldest continuously inhabited place in the world

    Read Article
    (Courtesy and Copyright Golden Eagle Global, Kurdistan, Iraq)