Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Location, Location, Location

Prior to becoming Emperor, Augustus, or Octavian as he was known, bought the house of Hortensius on the Palatine. This was to become his main residence or Domus Augusti. The fact that it had a direct line of sight to the spot on the River Tiber where Romulus and Remus washed up on shore in a basket, and is also right next to the Hut of Romulus is no accident. By purchasing this property Octavian was making a direct connection to the mythical history of Rome, and what is more, is representing himself as the new founder of the city.

Even when he became Emperor, Augustus continued to live in this comparatively modest abode, as was commented on by the historian Suetonious

'It is generally agreed that he was most temperate and without even the suspicion of any fault. He lived at first near the Forum Romanum, afterwards on the Palatine in a modest dwelling remarkable neither for size or elegance, having but a short colonnade with columns of local stone and rooms without any marble decorations or handsome pavements. For more than 40 years he used the same bedroom in winter and summer'

Modest it may have been but the glorious frescoes can still be seen today and are wonderful examples of Second Style wall decoration. This style was an extraordinary Roman innovation. The ideas used in the First Style had been imported from Greece but the Second Style opens up walls as windows and gives a view in to what lies beyond.

One of the rooms is designed to look like a theatre, complete with theatrical masks.

The barrel vaulted ceilings are impressive too.

Whilst we had visited part of the House of Augustus on a previous trip, this year was the first time that we have been able to see the House of Livia. You know it is a special tour when the guide lets you through a locked door and leads you down stairs to the past.

The wall decoration here is much more feminine with luscious garlands of fruits and flowers between delicate golden columns.

Winged female figures, possibly Victories, also make an appearance

Booking a tour of the houses is very straightforward. Details here

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