The Archaeological Park of the Colosseum, as part of a study and research project, has brought to light some rooms of a luxurious domus from the late Republican period. In 2018, some mural structures were excavated, and it once stood exactly where the Horrea Agrippiana were built during the time of Augustus. These were the famous warehouses along the vicus Tuscus (a commercial route connecting the river port on the Tiber and the Roman Forum) built by Augustus’s son-in-law, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa.

Behind the Horrea, between the warehouses and the slopes of the Palatine, the domus is spread across multiple floors, likely organized in terraces and characterized by at least three construction phases dating between the second half of the 2nd century BC and the end of the 1st century BC.

Distributed around an atrium/garden, the domus features the specus aestivus as its main room, a banquet hall imitating a cave used during the summer season. Originally, it was adorned with spectacular water displays through lead pipes embedded in decorated walls.

What makes the discovery exceptional is the finding of an extraordinary mosaic wall covering called “rustic” in this room, unparalleled due to the complexity of the depicted scenes and chronology.

Comprising different types of shells, Egyptian blue tesserae, precious glass, tiny scales of white marble, and other types of stone, along with tartars (fragments of spongy travertine) and pumice cretons joined by mortar and warp, the mosaic, dating from the last decades of the 2nd century BC, presents a complex sequence of figurative scenes.

In the four niches, delimited by pilaster strips and decorated with vases from which vines and lotus leaves emerge, stacks of weapons with Celtic trumpet horns (carnyx), ship prows with tridents, and helmets with triremes are represented, possibly alluding to a double triumph, both on land and at sea, of the domus owner.

The large lunette above also depicts a fascinating landscape with a city in the center, a cliff simulated with travertine tars, facing the sea traversed by three large ships, one with sails raised. A wall with small towers surrounds the city with porticoes, gates, and a large public building, and on one side, a pastoral scene.

The representation of a coastal city could refer to a military conquest by the domus owner, presumably an aristocratic figure, likely of senatorial rank.

In an adjoining reception room, careful restoration work has revealed a white stucco covering with landscapes within a simulated architecture and high-quality figures.

The discovery of a new domus with a room adorned with an extraordinary mosaic is an important outcome that demonstrates once again how committed the Archaeological Park of the Colosseum and the Ministry of Culture are to promoting research, knowledge, protection, and enhancement of our extraordinary cultural heritage.

The discovery also has significant scientific value, making the Domus even more relevant. Following the reopening of the Domus Tiberiana and the improvement of the Flavian Amphitheater’s accessibility, with the inauguration of the elevator now reaching the third tier, the heart of Roman culture has uncovered a true treasure, which we will ensure to safeguard and make accessible to the public, declares Minister of Culture Gennaro Sangiuliano.

It is an important outcome, adds Director of the Archaeological Park of the Colosseum Alfonsina Russo, that rewards long-term study and research efforts and aligns with one of the Park’s top priorities: knowledge and its diffusion.

The archaeological excavation will conclude in the first months of 2024, and then we will work intensively to make this site, one of the most suggestive in ancient Rome, accessible to the public as soon as possible.

Overall, the domus is characterized as a residence embodying the luxuria asiatica early in its existence, a concept that sparked controversies and fierce political battles among aristocratic factions during the late Republican era. It confirms historical sources indicating the presence of representatives of large Roman senatorial families in the northwestern area of the Palatine.

An extraordinary discovery bringing to light a genuine gem that, upon the conclusion of excavations and restoration work, will be added to the new and diversified visit itineraries opened in recent years, shaping the varied cultural offerings of the Archaeological Park of the Colosseum.


Sources

Ministero della Cultura


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