Media, Sci-Tech

Nero’s panoramic banquet room found

By Branko Brkic 30 September 2009

Four-month long excavation, led by lead archaeologist Francoise Villedieu, yields one of the most interesting architectural finds of late: mad emperor’s gigantic rotating banquet hall.

During his perpetually loony years as ruler of the known world (54 – 68 AD), also known as Rome, Nero established the new standards for madness, cruelty and plain torture, making Romans think almost wistfully about the reign of previous pace-setter, Caligula. He slashed, he torched, he fiddled as Rome was burning. But, he also built the magnificient Golden Palace (Domus Aurea), one that covered almost 80 ha over Rome’s four out of seven hills. It was started in A.D. 64 on the charred grounds left barren after the monstrous fire destroyed much of Rome. (It was rumoured that Nero himself started the fire in order to get rid of pesky landlords, who stood in way of his vision.).

In his Golden Palace’s focal point, banquet room, he entertained guests lucky enough not be fed to the lions or slaughtered in Rome’s catacombs. The team of archeologists found the room’s foundations as well as remains of the rotating mechanism underneath, as well as kitchen space. The room was 16 metres in diameter and  rested 4-metre wide pillar as well as four spherical mechanisms rotated the structure, probably by the water flow. Needless to say, the room had the best view in whole of Rome.

The Golden Palace was finished in the same year as Nero committed suicide (9 June 68 A.D.) after Senate finally got its act together and decided that he was too crazy even by Rome’s standards. Less than 50 years later, the Golden House lain almost entirely in rubble, together with Nero’s reputation. (Although he did get a famous piece of CD-burning software named after him). Destroyed the palace may have been, but the legend of its miracles and banquet hall lived to tell the story.

Read more: Times Online, Daily Mail, Associated Press

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