- Larry Ball
The Domus Aurea (Golden House) was the opulent residence of the emperor Nero (r. 54–68 ce), set in a vast park in Rome. Ancient literary sources on the Domus Aurea are abundant, albeit not wholly reliable or fair to Nero. Both Suetonius (Ner. 31) and Tacitus (Ann. 15.38–40 and 42) describe the construction. The first phase started in c. 60 ce. This was called the Domus Transitoria, which was interrupted by the great fire of 64 ce. “Domus Aurea” refers to the second phase, after the fire. Given its enormous scale, the Domus Aurea may not have been fully completed in just four years, but at least part of it was finished, most likely the core of the residence, on the Palatine Hill, near the forum, and Nero did move in. The palatine core is largely unknown to us, but the vast parklands created to the east of the forum area include a fine villa on the Esquiline Hill that bespeaks a spectacular new standard both for architectural design in vaulted Roman concrete and in decoration. After Nero, systematic obliteration of the Domus Aurea began with Vespasian (r. 69–79 ce), who sought to erase Nero’s memory. The Esquiline Villa was the last standing element of the Domus Aurea, buried under the Baths of Trajan after another urban conflagration in 104 ce.