lunedì 4 settembre 2017



The Palatine Hill (latin Palatium)  rises 32 meters above the present city and measures over 2,25 km in circonference, a vast archeological maze, much of it still unexcavated, in which even the more visible fragments do not Always make sense. The fist thing to take on board  is that the brick-faced concrete  ribs and tall vaulted chambers  exposed around the edges of the hill (especially impressiveat the North corner overlooking the Forum and on the South-west side towards the Circus Maximus)  are not buildins as such, but substructures. Their primary function was to support extensions to the hilltop palaces, though many included lower terraces which accomodated  all manner of lesser houses , apartments, baths, warehouses, workshops, and stores.  Another thing is that the summit itself developed upwards as well as outwards. For all the trees and green grass, the present profile is entirely man-made, one set of buildings replacing another in a great pile, ending up in places 15 m above the natural rock.  And because of stone-robbing and recent excavations, two or three phases  in this build-up may be seen at once.

In the Roman tradition the Palatine was where Rome began, the original city founded by Romulus in 753 B.C. on the site of a pre-existing settlemen, asnd indeed, excavations at the top SW  corner, matched by the new finds at the foot of the NE slope, have encontered a continuous sequence from the ninth century B.C. onwards. Although small packets of the older levels have been explored elsewhere,  all suggests increasingly dense occupation down to the late first century B.C. During the last century of the Republic (from the 160 B.C.) many of those who reached the consulship, the leaders among the political elite,  competed to build houses there, especially on the side towards the Forum and arund the summit (which geologists now locate squarely in the middle, under the core of the imperial palace). Big names included Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, consul in 177 B.C., and his two sons the reformers Tiberius and Gaius, their ally Marcus Fulvius Flaccus, consul in 125; the orator Lucius Licinius Crassus, consul of 95, idol of the famous Marcus Tullius Cicero, consul in 63, who also moved to the hill, uncorfortably close to his enemy P. Clodius Pulcher. Other residents were Tiberius Claudius Nero (father of the emperor Tiberius),  M. Livius Drusus (grandfather of the empress Livia), and the triunvir Mark Anthony. avenger of Caesar  and colleague of Octavian  (future emperor Augustus), whose sister he married in 39 B.C. About that time Octavian himself set about joining the Palatine enclava, abandoning his house beside the Roman Forum "above the stir of the Ringmakers" (unlocated) which had been belonged to the orator M. Licinius Calvus for the Palatine house of a still more famous orator, Quintus Hortensius Hortalus (consul of 69, who had died in 49 B.C.; to this he then added some other neighbouring properties, purchased by his agents in 36 B.C.     

The principal phases in the Imperial takeover  in so far as they are manifest on the ground , are keyed on the general site plan.  The great Platform which bears the Farnese Gardens can be identified with the Domus Tiberiana. It took shape in several stages , starting with Tiberius at the SW end, extended by his successor Gaius Caligula towards the  North (a house briefly known as Domus Gai until his memory was officially erased by the Senate) and then by Nero  (similarly Condemned), who completely rebuilt it after the fire of 64 A.C., raising it to its present level (on a par with the Capitoline Hill across the valley. The fire wrecked all the earlier palace complex, too, including a new wing that Nero had  just built in the area east of the Temple of Apollo. . Nero's rebuildingin 6469  (together with his larger Domus Aurea) could also have included some of the eastern hilltop, but any such works were immediately obliterated by the Flavian emperor Vespasianus  (70-79) and by his son Domitian  (81-96). 

The core of Domitian's palace (4) consisted of two suites of immensely tall reception/dining halls flanked further to the east by the Hippodrome garden (5) and a set of baths (6) at the South corner. The Platform extending to the Nord-East (7a - 7b) bore further gardens within a particular enclosure, apparently not incorporating a temple in the middle (the surviving podium dates from the 190s at the earliest).

Trajan and Hadrian in the early second century made substantial changes  to both ends of  Platform (3) and some to Platform (7), carried out repairs and some internal improvements to the rest of the Domitian Palace (Hadrian installed heating under the floor  of its great dining room) and developed the core of a further terrace beyond the baths (6). The second century also saw the systematic terracing and redevelopment of the outer fringesof the hill on the South-east (Circus Maximus and  Caelian) side, which were crowded with shops, commercial buildings (horrea) and apartment blocks (insulae) in symbiosis with the palace on top.






Di Cassius Ahenobarbus - Opera propria, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Mappa della domus Augustana
E : entrata principale. L : Lararium. A : Aula Regia. B : Basilica. Po : portico. P1 : peristilio. C : Cenatio. P2 : secondo peristilio. P3 : terzo peristilio. Co : cortile. Ex : grande esedra. S : Stadium. Tr : Tribuna dello Stadium

Di Cassius Ahenobarbus - Opera propria, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Domus Flavia and Augustana




The Palatine Stadium (160 x 48 m) is an important Sector of the Flavian Palace. Hippodromus is the word, with which it was described by late authors. Hippodromes originally were areas, where horses were  exercised: elongated rectangular spaces with paths and flower-beds. It had a ronded South and was surrounded by a portico, supported by Marble-clad engaged columns.


Adjacent and connected with the the large public areas of the so-called  Domus Flavia  was the private Sector of the Domitian's Palace, traditionally known as the Domus Augustana. It was arranged on two levels: one at the same level as the Domus Flavia and a basement storey with different architectural and functional characteristics. On the upper floor, the entrance sector, a vast and uncovered area, is poorly preserved: it led into a porticoed courtyard (peristyle) with a pool at the center and a series of residential apartments at the sides. About ten metres below  was the lower storey  of the palace, intimate and secluded, with a courtyard with an original fountain and luxuriously decorated rooms, as well as some small rooms, where the emperor lived his private life.  The sequence of spaces in his "private" Sector ended in a monumental curved facade overlooking the Circus Maximus.



Second peristyle garden looking south



The largest room (so-called Audience Chamber) was probably reserved for audiences with the emperor. It was of exceptional size (1280 sq.m) an had a complex architectural decoration, of which many features survive.  Eight niches for colossal statues opened in the walls. Two were recovered intact in 1724: a Hercules and a Bacchus, in green basalt, whilst only the head of a Jupiter was found. The statues were inside bays and framade by a colonnade several storeys high, with finely carved bases and capitals and a frieze with miltary motifs.


The so-called Basilica takes itn name from the architecture of its interior , typical of basilicas: it was divided into three halls by coloured Marble columns with an apse at the end closed by a balustrade. Traces of the Marble veneer survive on the walls 0and part of the floor made of large slabs of coloured marble was preserved until the 19th century. A modern staircase leads to a room beneath, covered by the palace, known as the "Hall of Isis" and decorated with frescoes of the Augustan period on Egyptianizing subjects (on display in the Loggia Mattei). This room may have been used for settling legal disputes , presided over by the emperor. 



 Partie nord de la Domus Flavia. Au premier plan, le péristyle central avec le bassin octogonal. Au fond, les vestiges des murs appartiennent à l'Aula Regia et aux salles latérales.

Marcus Cassius Ahenobarbus Sur Wikipédia : Cassius Ahenobarbus, discuter


Di Cassius Ahenobarbus - Opera propria, CC BY-SA 3.0,


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