Sad news today for Italy: part of the complex archaeological structure surrounding Nero’s ‘Golden House’ in Rome his extravagant palace between 64-68 AD has collapsed following heavy rain.
The Domus Aurea, as it is known, is one of the treasures of the ancient Roman world. Although it has been mainly closed to the public in recent years due to efforts to fend off encroaching damp and decay, it is a unique archaeological site and an important part of Italy’s heritage.
The site is structurally complex and includes important buildings from the reigns of Nero and Trajan. When Nero committed suicide in 68 AD, his imperial residence was largely gutted and precious materials taken for use elsewhere in ancient Rome. Some of the building itself was filled with earth and buried. Today the Domus Aurea lies mainly underneath Colle Oppio, although it originally extended as far as the Palatine and Caelian hills on the other side of the Colosseum.
In 69 AD, Vespasian took power and built the Flavian amphitheatre (i.e., the Colosseum named after the bronze statue of Nero as Colossus Colossus Neronis which stood in the Domus Aurea) which is about 100 metres or so from the entrance to the Domus Aurea. The emperor Trajan came to power in 98 AD and it was during his rule that an elaborate bathing complex was built right on top of Nero’s buried golden palace.
The area damaged is about 60 square metres of the ceiling of one of the halls of Trajan’s baths, known as the fifteenth room, according to La Repubblica. The roof fell through at about 10am on Tuesday morning. Pictures of the collapse as seen from the top of Colle Oppio were published on the paper’s website.
Further collapses are possible according to the special commissioner for the site Luciano Marchetti. He described the situation as one of extreme alarm. He said there is an immediate risk of further damage, and to mitigate this they need to begin conservation work straight away for which secure funding is needed. Work done on the site so far has cost EUR 2 million. According to Marchetti, a further EUR 10 million is needed to completely secure and preserve the site.
According to La Repubblica, archaeological excavations were underway at the site but officers at the scene don’t believe that anyone has been trapped or injured. Officials are now working to make the area safe and to prevent further rain from damaging the area that has been exposed.