Nero’s life often gives rise to the most lurid stories of tyrany, debauchery, and extravagance but in reality only some basic facts are known about him – his palace was here in Rome, he was the fifth and final Roman emperor of the Julio-Claudia dynasty and he died in AD 68.
But now, archaeologists believe they have found the remains of Nero’s fabled rotating dining room in the remains of the 1st century Golden Palace on Rome’s Palatine Hill – and they think it is the one described by Roman historian Suetonius, in Lives of the Caesars. Suetonius described a dining room which revolved “night and day in imitation of the motion of the celestial bodies”. So it must have been here that Nero held banquets which were described as lasting “from noon till midnight”. Says Angelo Bottini, the archaeological superintendent of Rome: “We have to underline that the whole of Nero’s ideology is linked to the sun… and so the rotation would confirm the idea of the Sun Emperor around which the world is turning.” The rotating dining room was more than 15 meters in diametre and was supported by a 4 meter-thick pillar and four spherical mechanisms on which the whole thing rotated. The construction was obviously a triumph of Roman engineering, and it is thought that the movement was powered by a constant flow of water. But precisely how this worked is still being researched. The existence of a rotating dining room is perhaps less surprising when you consider that the palace also featured an artificial lake and a 30 meter-tall statue of Nero. Work is on-going to uncover the rest of the secrets hidden in this site. For more information about Rome: