BSR Summer School day 9 – the Domus Aurea and other things

11/9/08 – 4.45pm
We got the Metro first thing to Termini station, where we saw a section of the Servian walls round the back of a restaurant.  This was the very same section Hannibal would have been met with!

Servian Walls

The section of the Servian Walls tucked unceremoniously behind a Termini station fast food outlet

From there, we went to the Auditorium of Maecenas, which is actually a water feature rather than an auditorium, and it stank of piss, but there were some sections of frescoes which made it ok.

Auditorium of Maecenas

The so-called Auditorium of Maecenas, actually a water feature

After that we had a 15 minute coffee break and then it was off to Nero’s Domus Aurea (Golden House).  It was hard to get a feel for what it would have been like, as it’s mostly destroyed and underground, and what’s left has been cut through by the foundations of the Baths of Trajan. But one did get an impression of its immense size – enormously high ceilings – and there were some frescoes surviving in some of the rooms.  It was incredible to think that we were walking in the same rooms that Nero had walked in, the same rooms whose reputation has gone down in history by being described by the likes of Tacitus and Suetonius!  Sadly photography wasn’t permitted.

Domus Aurea

The somewhat unprepossessing entrance to Nero's Golden House - not quite what Nero would've been used to...

After that, we saw the podium of the temple of the Divine Claudius, which was under a church and pretty huge.  We stopped for lunch in a pleasant park nearby, and then we went into an extremely well-preserved insula, which had been converted into a domus (that means it used to be a block of flats occupied by multiple families, but later it was converted into a nice big house for one family).  It is found under the church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo on the Caelian Hill, and had some of the best frescoes we’ve seen so far.

That was the last thing on today’s agenda, and then we headed to the Circus Maximus Metro station and then onto Fontana di Trevi station.  Some of the others went to Giolitti’s for ice cream but I was adamant that I wanted San Crispino’s, so I could get the meringue ice cream – yummy!

Ss Giovanni e Paolo

One of the frescoes in the insula-domus at Santi Giovanni e Paolo

Hugh has invented a game called “Nuns and Priests”, where if you see a nun, the first one to call “Nun!” gets one point.  Similarly, a priest is worth 2 points, a bishop 4, and if you see the Pope you’ve won, like if you catch the Snitch in Quidditch.  Religious personnel spotted at a church don’t count.  Hehe – I’m in the lead with I think 4 points!


Lecture this evening was on Roman horti (gardens), which was really interesting.  After dinner some of us were craving chocolate so we went off in search of an open shop.  Sadly the only one open at 9.30pm was a flower shop – what good is that?!  Managed to avoid the rent boys on the Via Gramsci!!

When we got to the BSR we spent the rest of the evening in the common room playing table tennis and darts.

About Rachel Ingram

I graduated from Oxford University in 2009 with an MA in Classical Archaeology and Ancient History from St John's College. After graduating I worked as a Geographic Researcher at, spending lots of time researching and writing travel guides to worldwide destinations, developing my copywriting skills. After working as a copywriter and content consultant at (formerly SEOptimise), where I most enjoyed working with travel clients, I went self-employed. I now divide my time between freelance copywriting and running the business I set up with my boyfriend - - selling aviation gift experiences. In my spare time I'm training for a Private Pilot's Licence, and I also enjoy travelling, wine and baking. My favourite authors are Charles Dickens, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Bill Bryson.
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