Domus Augustana

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Plan of the Palatine buildings
Domus Augustana: P2: 2nd peristyle P3: 3rd peristyle Co: courtyard Ex: grand exedra S: Stadium Tr: Tribune of the Stadium

The term Domus Augustana first appears in regard to a new palace built by Nero as attested to in an inscription made by Nero's freedman in charge of the curtains that separated one room from another. The palace stretched from the peak of the hill to ridge directly attached to and southeast of the Domus Augusti "as if it were an extension of the older strucurre"[1] The name is not directly related to Augustus and should not be confused with the Domus Augusti. Domus Augustana is the modern name for the so-called domestic wing of the ancient and vast Roman Palace of Domitian (92 AD) on the Palatine Hill.[2] The ancient sources epigraphical and literary always refer to the public and private parts of Domitian's palace as Domus Augustana only.[3]

It seems that the southernly section of this domus was reserved for the private quarters of the emperor. The two peristyles to the north were likely to have public functions as they were within the so-called Domus Flavia. This hypothesis is reinforced by the fact that the southern section was built a little later and some details suggest that it was not Rabirius who directed the work.[4]

Emperors did not always use it as their principal residence when in Rome.[5] Trajan lived there. Hadrian was frequently travelling and when in Rome preferred his gigantic villa in Tivoli. Antoninus Pius and Lucius Verus did not live there: they preferred the Domus Tiberiana. Marcus Aurelius may have lived because Lucius Verus was in the adjacent palace. The palace was used for State Occasions. From the 3rd century it intermittently occupied since the emperors moved about the provinces frequently performing their military duties. Valentinian III, 415-455 made frequent visits and took up residence in 452. After his death the last western emperors lived in the palace. Theodoric the Great and his grandson, Athalaric lodge there. It became the seat of Byzantine administrators.[6]


2nd peristyle garden looking south
"3rd Peristyle" garden looking south

The Domus Augustana consists of at least four main parts: the "2nd Peristyle" to the northeast, the central "3rd Peristyle", the courtyard complex and the exedra on the southwest.

The 2nd Peristyle garden is partly exposed but little is known of its architecture. The 3rd Peristyle was filled almost completely with a huge pool as wide as that of the Domus Flavia and included a seascape perhaps of Greek mythology on an island and with sculpture in the water.[7] Other sources say that a temple was built on the island, namely a temple of Minerva.[8] On its southwest side the walls still stand to a considerable height with several rooms around a semicircular hall.

"Courtyard" garden of the Domus Augustana looking east to the Severan Baths

The courtyard complex has two levels, the upper containing complex sets of rooms and the lower, 10 m below, consists of a pool with an unusual design of islands.

The great exedra is a long curving arcaded gallery linking the two wings and overlooking the Circus Maximus allowing the emperor to watch the races.


  1. ^ The Atlas of Ancient Rome, Ed. Caradinia and Carafa, 2012, Vol 1 p. 238, Vol 11, Tables 75 and 80 X, 17, 106, 506 ISBN 978-0-691-16347-5
  2. ^ "Domus Augustana - Rome, Italy - History and Visitor Information".
  3. ^ The Atlas of Ancient Rome, Vol 1 p. 243, "Despite what has traditionally been claimed in studies of the monument, there was not a domus Flavia and a domus Augustiana, but only one domus Augustiana, the some name of the Palatine palace that appears in the epigraphs and literature"
  4. ^ Filippo Coarelli, Rome and surroundings, an archaeological guide, University of California Press, London, 2007, p 151
  5. ^ Atlas of Ancient Rome, pp. 252-264
  6. ^ Atlas of Ancient Rome, 2012 pp. 252-264
  7. ^ Rome, An Oxford Archaeological Guide, A. Claridge, 1998 p 139
  8. ^ Archaeological Guide to Rome, Adriano La Regina, 2005, Electa, p 65

Other sources[edit]