The Domus Tiberiana shines: a new route and an exhibition in Rome


By John

In the collective imagination, Italy now has its own obvious definition: “the country where if you dig in the garden you find the remains of a Roman tomb”. And we obviously do not mean the famous Horti Farnesiani that Cardinal Alessandro Farnese set up on the ancient ruins of the Palatine in the mid-sixteenth century. Vegetable garden in the true sense of the word, as one might say cellar or garage or foundations of any house. Discoveries are commonplace. In the middle of the last century, who suspected that the Palatine still hid, in addition to the famous Domus aurea of ​​Nero, a Domus of Tiberius, covering approximately 4 hectares? Excavations have been taking place since 1970 Colosseum archaeological park they revealed it. Gigantic and complex jobs that took many years. The opening of the site to the public takes place now, with the addition of a new route which, starting from the Clivo della Vittoria, makes six other rooms accessible to visitors.
The exhibition «Domus tiberiana, Imago Imperii» organized by Electa, which signs the catalogue, curated by Alfonsina Russo, Maria Grazia Filetici, Martina Almonte, Fulvio Coletti, set up in the Colosseum archaeological park, tells its story. It is accompanied by the volume of the same name published by Electa, a very up-to-date guide to the imperial palace, also accounting for the findings of recent decades. This is the first true imperial residence, built by the emperor Tiberius on the western side of the Palatine (name deriving from “palace”). Although its remains are impressive, especially on the side of the Roman Forum where it rises – with a series of overlapping arches – to a height of about twenty metres, the Domus Tiberiana is not, in terms of architecture and chronology, a unitary building. It was formed progressively thanks to a series of additions made after Tiberius. His glories would come to an end when Nero set about building his personal Domus nearby, of such unbridled luxury that it was known as Aurea.
The decay of the Domus Tiberiana was not sudden, however. In the 8th century AD it was still so well preserved that it was chosen as a residence by Pope John VII (650-707 AD) who restored it for living there. But starting from the 10th century, the palace now completely abandoned, its materials were plundered and used to make lime. After other vicissitudes, in the mid-sixteenth century the remains of the Domus, obliterated by those very famous Horti Farnesiani of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, became a luxuriant place of delights, as demonstrated by completely unpredictable discoveries, see the remains of some oysters dating back to the delightful banquets of era. In the end, excavation after excavation, the complex began to reconfigure itself in its original grandeur.
The route of the current visit, which develops in the bowels of the imperial palace passing the mighty arches of the service district, is divided into 13 rooms, four of which are exhibition rooms communicating with each other, with a privileged view of the Roman Forum. On the opposite side, two multimedia rooms host a documentary and the holographic reconstruction of the monument. The permanent exhibition layout is organized according to a thematic vision within the areas intended for services and retail shops. It is along this path that the visitor has a “physical” approach to the life that took place at court, thanks to the selection of hundreds of ceramic, metal and glass artefacts, pottery, coins bearing witness to economic transactions, sumptuous furnishings, goods and consumption highlighted over the last 30 years. Inside and outside the spaces are expertly lit by Acea, which ensures the technical, artistic and archaeological sponsorship of Rome. Great attention is paid to accessibility.
If the powerful work of the excavations restores the environments in their historical truth, it is the physical emotion of the journey through the real environments that constitutes the greatest attraction of the exhibition. Here the most powerful men in the world walked (and plotted) reveling in the magnificence of their power. Sic transit…