Monday, December 12, 2005

Golden House to Close...

From ANSA:
ANSA) - Rome, December 12 - 0ne of Rome's prime tourist attractions, the ruins of Nero's Domus Aurea, is to be closed to the public for two years because of safety concerns linked to leaky and flaking walls and ceilings .
Culture Minister Rocco Buttiglione said it would take five million euros for the "most urgent" work on the damaged ceilings .
But after that two-year project, a further 60 million euros would be needed over ten years to make the monument safe for future generations .
Buttiglione's announcement that the 32 rooms open to visitors "are no longer safe" came after patches of brick and plaster showed signs of plunging to the floor .
In recent years, there have been at least two incidents in which holes in the ceilings have appeared .
It had been closed for over twenty years after water seepage sparked fears of possible structural subsidence .
The Golden Palace of the ill-famed Emperor Nero (37-68 AD) re-opened in June 1999 after 21 years in which it was Rome's best-kept secret - open only to art officials and special guests .
Some five billion lire were spent in refurbishing the 30-odd visitable rooms filled with surprisingly fresh and lively frescoes of weird animals like winged lions, griffins and tritons which led to the original coinage of the word 'grotesque', from the Italian word for cave or grotto .
After Nero's suicide in 68 AD the Flavian emperors who succeeded him proceeded to bury all trace of the man who already in life was a byword for dissolution, cruelty and excess .
The Flavian amphitheater, better known as the Colosseum, was built on the site of Nero's palace-side lake, while Trajan built his baths on top of the main part of the sprawling pleasure dome, located mainly on Rome's Colle Oppio (Oppian Hill) .
Ironically, the Colosseum is so-called because of the massive statue of Nero that his successors dragged beside their own monument - after changing the head, according to some ancient accounts .
Another irony is that, by burying the place, they actually preserved it so that the finest wall-paintings outside Pompeii, with almost equally vivid colours, can be admired today .
Other interesting touches are the chalk and tallow marks left by Renaissance masters like Raphael who were let down through a hole in the roof to admire its splendours .
Architecturally, the piece de resistance is the eight-sided Sala Ottagonale where Nero is supposed to have entertained his guests with his singing and lyre-playing, all on a rotating floor .
At suitable moments in the fun, the sybaritic emperor is also reported - by Roman historian Suetonius - to have given the signal for marble panels to slide back, showering guests with petals and perfume .
When it was completed, a 50-hectare complex covering most of the Palatine, Celian and Oppian hills, Nero was reputed to have remarked that finally he was beginning to be housed like a human being .

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