Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Casa di Augusto

He lived at first near the Forum Romanum...; afterwards, on the Palatine, but in the no less modest dwelling of Hortensius, which was remarkable neither for size nor elegance, having but short colonnades with columns of Alban stone, and rooms without any marble decorations or handsome pavements. For more than forty years too he used the same bedroom in winter and summer... . If ever he planned to do anything in private or without interruption, he had a retired place at the top of the house, which he called "Syracuse"and "technyphion [trans. 'my little workshop']."
-- Suetonius (71 -135 A.C.D.), The Lives of the Twelve Caesars

Four rooms in an ancient house on the Palatine Hill, believed to have belonged to Imperator Caesar Augustus (
63 BC - 14 AD) for forty years -- before as well as after he became the first emperor of Rome -- opened to the public for the first time this week. The house of Octavian, as he was first known, is in an area of Palatine Hill never before opened to the public, according to the London Daily Mail.

In an otherwise direct and informative description of the site, the Daily Mail takes a brief but predictably titillating detour about the uses to which Octavian might have put the restored bedroom -- oddly, drawing on the fictional HBO series "Rome." We mention it here only because it may satisfy those readers who come here looking for salacious news about the private antics of former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who resigned today:
Octavian, played by Max Pirkis in the hit BBC sex and violence historical epic Rome, lived in the house on the Palatine hill overlooking the Forum in around 30BC and moved there shortly after marrying Livia.

In the BBC series, he confessed to Livia that being slapped by her during sex "greatly arouse my pleasure" and he in turn would whip and beat her, while in another episode Octavian is seen beating his mother Atia senseless with a water jug.

As the London Times explains, Octavian's house was once assumed to have been destroyed after he moved up the hill. Archaeologist Gianfilippo Carrettoni first discovered the ruins in the 1960s. According to the European internet travel service Opodo:
Some decorations on the walls and ceilings of the building were found intact, while others have been reconstructed from fragments. Rooms in the house have been restored, including the Room of the Pines, where the walls are painted to represent yellow columns.
The Guardian has a few photos. Monsters and Critics has more.

The BBC earlier this week covered the whole of the site and a little bit more of Palatine Hill and the nearby Roman forum. Take a look:

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