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What is the House of Augustus?
It is the house of the first emperor of Rome, Augustus. He was emperor from the year 27 BC until 14 AD and he established his residency on the Palatine hill.
Today, when you visit the Palatine hill (inside the Colosseum Archaeological Park) you can enter Augustus’ house. And admire the beautiful rooms decorated with frescoes and mosaic floors!
Exploring this site is quite a sensation.
This house includes both the private residency and the public wing that Augustus, the first emperor of Rome, established right on the top of the Palatine hill of Rome.
Why did Augustus decided to live here?
Augustus was born right on this hill in 63 BC. However, the main reason why he decided to build his own imperial house on the Palatine hill was another one.
Augustus in fact wanted to associate his image with the one of the glorious and legendary founder of Rome: Romulus.
The importance of the Palatine hill
It is on this very hill, in fact, the Palatine hill, that Romulus founded the city of Rome on April 21st of the year 754 BC.
This could be seen as a pure legendary story. However there are archaeological proofs that a leader like Romulus actually existed and that he founded the city of Rome starting from the Palatine hill.
Just a few steps away from the entrance of the House of Augustus on the Palatine hill, you can see a big canopy covering something that may look to you just like a bunch of stones.
Actually those stones represent the very spot where Rome was founded. This is where Rome started as a huts village, to then become a massive empire covering three continents!
In fact, if you look carefully among those blocks of stone, you will notice a flat area of tufa stone (the native stone of the Palatine hill) featuring some holes.
Why do we get so excited about those holes? Because those were the holes for the wooden poles that would support the structure of the huts. So these were the huts of Romulus!
Now that you have a little context of the importance of the Palatine hill, you understand why Augustus chose to build his imperial residency only a few meters away from the legendary hut of Romulus.
What you can visit today
At the beginning of March 2022 finally the indoor site of the House of Augustus reopened to the public! The entrance to the site is right opposite the Romulus huts on the Palatine hill.
The visits to the House of Augustus take place every half an hour. They are accompanied with an introductory video and lights’ reconstructions.
You will move through the different sections accompanied by a member of the staff, which will give you directions through the sequence of rooms.
The narration of the videos is played alternatively in English and Italian.
The incredible frescoes of the rooms of the House of Augustus
The house of Augustus was the first imperial residency of Ancient Rome, but not the last. The Palatine hill remained the imperial residence until the end of the Roman empire.
Throughout the centuries the various emperors expanded the imperial palace to much bigger scale to the point that one of the emperors, Septimius Severus, had to build a platform to extend the Palatine hill.. there was no more space left!
While the following emperors built incredibly huge palaces, when you visit the Palatine hill you can notice right away the difference in size compared to the rooms of the house of Augustus. Augustus lived in a precious and lush house of course, but the sizes of his rooms were much smaller, closer to our homes today.
Which was in line with the modesty principles that were part of his propaganda program.
The House of Augustus was divided into an official area (for imperial tasks) and a private area. Both the private and public areas had richly decorations with incredible mosaic floors and colorful frescoes on the walls.
Some of the highlights of the House of Augustus
Among the most important rooms of the House of Augustus we can find the “Room of the Masks” and the “Room of the Pine Festoons”.
This is the vibrant frescoes of the Room of the Masks
Here we can see the beautiful vaulted ceiling of a ramp leading upstairs. It is decorated with tri-dimensional “gems” which seem to stick out of the flat surface of the wall.
But the real jewel of this house is upstairs. Ancient authors tell us about a small studio (studiolo) where Augustus used to retreat alone, to escape chaos of the hectic Roman political life. A small and enclosed space where he could just sit and think.
Now imagine Augustus walking into this room, laying his eyes on these frescoes, scratching his head while trying to find a good solution, a compromise, the best way to handle the difficult situations of his life.
This room must have been the very place where Augustus took some of the most important decisions, which today make our history books!
That is why these places are so powerful. It’s history right in front of us. A history which is made of people, more or less powerful.
But still people that, like us today, needed a silent break to sit and think.
How to visit
To access this special area you will need to purchase one of these two tickets, which cost a little extra than the standard tickets:
- Forum Pass SUPER ticket
- or Full Experience ticket
Please always refer to the official website for the most up-to-date info: https://parcocolosseo.it/en/visit/opening-times-and-tickets/
Amazing history and beautiful presentation
I can’t wait to see it in person