About Domus Aurea

The Domus Aurea, Latin for "Golden House," was an opulent and extravagant palace commissioned by the Roman Emperor Nero after the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD. Spanning vast areas of the city, this remarkable architectural marvel showcased Nero's indulgence and wealth. The Domus Aurea featured lavish gardens, intricate frescoes, and stunning interior decorations, reflecting the grandeur of the Roman Empire's power. Its most distinctive feature was a massive dome-covered hall called the "Octagonal Room," which served as the centerpiece of the palace. The walls and ceilings of the palace were adorned with intricate paintings and decorative elements, employing innovative techniques to create a sense of wonder for visitors. Despite its short-lived existence due to subsequent emperors' efforts to erase Nero's legacy, the Domus Aurea's influence on Renaissance art and architecture has endured, inspiring generations of artists and architects to reimagine its splendor.

What to see at the Domus Aurea

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The Octagonal Complex

The Octagonal Complex at Domus Aurea was built by Emperor Nero, and was one of the largest and most lavish imperial palaces of its time. The complex consisted of an octagonal courtyard, surrounded by a colonnade of marble columns. There were also several reception rooms, a private apartment, and a bath suite in this complex. The complex was decorated with lavish mosaics, marble statues, and paintings. It was one of the most impressive examples of Roman architecture and engineering of its time.

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The Mosaic Ceilings

The mosaic ceilings at Domus Aurea are some of the most beautiful and intricate ceilings in Rome. They were created in the 1st century AD, as a commission work by Nero. The ceilings are covered in hundreds of tiny tiles, each one placed perfectly to create a work of art. The colours are bright and vibrant, and the patterns are intricate and detailed. The ceilings are truly a sight to behold, and they are one of the reasons that Domus Aurea is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Rome.

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The Wall Paintings

With your Domus Aurea tickets, you can also admire the many wall paintings here. The wall paintings at Domus Aurea are some of the most well-preserved and detailed examples of Roman frescoes. The subject matter includes a mix of classical mythology and scenes from daily life. The colours are still vibrant and the level of detail is astounding. These paintings give us a rare glimpse into the everyday life of the wealthy Roman elite.

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The Big Dig

In the year 64 AD, the great fire of Rome burned for six days, leveling much of the city. In its wake, Emperor Nero had a grand vision for a new palace, Domus Aurea, which would be even grander than anything that had come before. Construction began in 68 AD, but it was not long before Nero's enemies began to plot against him. In the centuries that followed, the palace slowly fell into ruin. In the early 21st century, archaeologists began a grand project to excavate and restore the palace.

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Architectural Highlights of Nero’s Golden House

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West Wing

The West Wing is the most well preserved area of the Domus Aurea complex. It is also a great place to learn about the luxuries that this palace once had. The west wing is spread across 2 storeys and boasts of over 130 rooms, each of which has ceilings that are almost 11 metres high. You can enter the west wing through the Sacra from the Forum. The wing was lavishly decorated with marble, mosaics, and tapestries, and its rooms were filled with expensive furniture and sculptures.

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Wall paintings (Frescoes)

You cannot miss out on admiring the wide array of wall paintings or frescoes that decorated Nero’s Golden House. A lot of these frescoes were done by Famulus, a roman painter, who was also known as the “floridly extravagant artist.” The frescoes of the Domus Aurea are some of the most intricate and beautiful frescoes ever created. They depict a variety of scenes from Greek and Roman mythology, as well as everyday life. The colours and detail are amazing, and the overall effect is stunning.

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Domus Transitoria

During your visit to the Domus Aurea, you can also see the ruins of the Domus Transitoria, which was a temporary palace built by the Emperor Nero in Rome. It was located between the Domus Aurea and the Roman Forum. The palace used to connect Nero’s imperial holding in Palatine Hill to the Esquiline zone but was destroyed in AD 64. Some of the parts of Domus Transitoria that are still accessible today include the Nymphaeum of Polyphemus, found under the baths of Livia.

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The Colossus of Nero

Also known as Colossus Neronis, the Colossus of Nero is a 98-feet-tall bronze statue of this Roman emperor. The statue was a representation of Nero as the Sun God Sol Invictus, and it was one of the largest statues in the ancient world. It was originally located in a vestibule in Domus Aurea, but was then moved to the Colosseum. The statue was supposedly destroyed during an earthquake in the 5th century. The only thing that remained was the base of the statue, which is located near the Colosseum.

History of Nero’s Golden House

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A Grand Plan

You can use your Domus Aurea tickets to learn about the history of this structure, which began with a grand plan in AD 64. It was during this time that a fire ravaged the city of Rome for 6 days, destroying a lot of age-old palaces and luxury villas around the Palatine Hill. This included the Domus Transitoria, a palace complex of Emperor Nero. Owing to its destruction, Nero ordered the construction of the Domus Aurea, or the Golden House. This would be the grandest estate that would have ever been built in the Roman empire till then.

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A Monumental Build

Upon the order by Nero, the construction of Domus Aurea began rather quickly. However, since he was descending into madness, the king had already killed his wife and mother. Regardless, the construction of the estate was well underway, with the structure sprawling across hundreds of areas, with many hundred rooms, marble pavilions, atriums, gardens as well as fountains and other elements. The construction of Domus Aurea took 4 years to complete. However, by AD 68, Nero was already banished from Rome, and had consequently committed suicide.

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A Lost Legacy

When Nero’s rule was over, a Damnatio Memoriae was issued by the senate, to condemn the dead emperor’s memory. Due to this, certain sections of the Domus Aurea were built upon by the other emperors, which include the construction of a Colosseum over the lake in the estate. Over time, the Domus Aurea became lost, with another city evolving over it. As a final blow, the remains of the estate were filled in with dirt and brick, for the construction of Emperor Trajan’s grand baths.

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A Rediscovery

Centuries later, in the 15th century during the Renaissance period, the ruins of the Domus Aurea were rediscovered. The prevailing story recounts a young Roman who stumbled upon this remarkable find by accidentally descending through a crevice in a Roman hillside. To his astonishment, he found himself within a cave adorned with exquisite paintings. This chance discovery swiftly attracted the attention of archaeologists and artists in Rome, among them renowned figures like Michelangelo and Raphael. They flocked to the site to marvel at the artistic treasures within, contributing to the legacy of admiration that the Domus Aurea's intricate artworks had amassed over time.

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The Domus today

As of today, discoveries are still being made in the Domus Aurea area. However, it is important to note that the process is rather long and strenuous, with many sections of the complex being located under the buildings that sit on it. Today, the Domus Aurea is a popular tourist destination, and is one of the most well-preserved examples of Roman architecture.

Plan Your Visit

Plan Your Visit
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Things to know before you go
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  • Opening Hours: Domus Aurea remains open between 09:00 a.m. to 06:15 p.m. from Friday to Sunday.
  • Location: Domus Aurea is located in the Parco del Colle Oppio, just opposite to the Colosseum. Its location is: Via della Domus Aurea, 00184 Roma RM, Italy.

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Is the Domus Aurea worth visiting?

    Yes, the Domus Aurea is surely worth visiting. The Domus Aurea is a vast complex of palaces and gardens built by the Roman Emperor Nero. After the great fire of Rome in 64 AD, Nero seized the opportunity to build a lavish new palace for himself on the site of the fire. The Domus Aurea was one of the most ostentatious buildings of the ancient world, and it remained one of the largest private residences ever built until the 19th century. Today, the ruins of the Domus Aurea are a popular tourist attraction, and visitors can explore the remains of the palace and see some of the incredible frescoes that decorated its walls.

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