The palace was stripped of its marble, jewels, and ivory within a decade and was later filled in and built over.
The gigantic palace, known as Domus Aurea or ‘Golden House’ is located in Rome and was built nearly 2,000 years ago after a great fire destroyed a large part of the city. Some scholars reckon it covered over 300 acres and was a sprawling testament to Nero’s power and opulence. It probably comes to an as little surprise that among the 300 or so rooms, there were a few secrets stashed away. During the ongoing renovation works, researchers stumbled across a hidden, underground chamber with walls covered in ancient murals. The murals show real and mythical creatures, including a sphinx – which has led to it being christened the Sphinx Room. ‘The discovery of this room is part of the scientific research strategy that the Park carries out every day,’ explained Alfonsina Russo, director of the Archaeological Park of the Colosseum.
‘Remaining in darkness for almost twenty centuries, the Sphinx Room, as we have called it, tells us about the atmosphere of the years of the principality of Nero.’
Unfortunately, the research team isn’t able to clear all the rubble and dirt from within the Sphinx Room as that risks destabilizing the surrounding structure. Instead, the team will build it into the overall restoration plans for the entire complex. And we’d bet that they’ll find a few more hidden passageways and secret rooms before the job is finished.
Nero was known as a tyrannical ruler who was cruel to those around him, as well as those he ruled over. Despite this, he lived a life of luxury – which is why efforts were made to get rid of the Golden House after his suicide in AD68.
It was eventually rediscovered in the 15th Century after a local fell through the ground and into the remains of the structure.