On 21 September 2023 the Colosseum Archaeological Park opened the Domus Tiberiana to the public, almost 50 years after the onset of the serious structural problems that had led to its closure and following important restoration interventions. The grandiose imperial residence, covering approximately 4 hectares on the Palatine Hill, overlooks the valley of the Roman Forum with powerful arches on several levels, an iconic image of this corner of the ancient city.
With the opening of the palace, the circularity of the routes between the Roman Forum and the Palatine is restored, through the ramp of Domitian and the Farnesian gardens: the visitor, who enters the palace along the covered street known as Clivo della Vittoria, will thus have the perception of the The ancient path followed by the emperor and the court to reach the grandiose private residence, which from the Palatine Hill gave rise to the modern meaning of the word “palace”.
Imago imperii is the title of the museum exhibition, curated by Alfonsina Russo, Maria Grazia Filetici, Martina Almonte and Fulvio Coletti, with the organization of Electa, which is divided into 13 rooms that open up along the route, with the ambition to tell the history of the monument over the centuries.
In fact, if the name Domus Tiberiana, known from the sources, refers to the emperor Tiberius, who led the empire after the death of Augustus, archaeological investigations have shown that the foundations of the palace were laid by Nero at a time following fire of 64 AD, or at the same time as the construction of the Domus Aurea, in continuity with the older aristocratic homes. Subsequent transformations, in particular by the emperors Domitian and Hadrian, further expanded the residence. The residence continued to exist until late antiquity, only to come back to life after a period of abandonment, when in the mid-sixteenth century the Farnese family incorporated it into their gardens. The subject of uninterrupted excavations and restorations since the 19th century, the Domus Tiberiana had been opened to public use by the archaeologist Pietro Rosa, at the same time as the first Palatine Museum.
In recent years the Domus Tiberiana has been the subject of important excavation and restoration works aimed at the knowledge, protection and valorisation of an architectural organism as complex as it was initially at risk, due to the serious static and geotechnical instability of the imposing structures now healed, which ensured and made stable the entire sector concerning the substruction of the northern slope of the Palatine. A necessary phase that today allows the monument area to be opened to the public.
“The Colosseum Archaeological Park continues with the aim of returning spaces previously closed to visitors to the public. To the new and diversified routes opened in recent years, today we add a historic result, namely the opening to the public of the Domus Tiberiana: thus the circular route between the Roman Forum and the Palatine is finally restored through the suggestive spaces of the Imperial Palace. A result achieved with a strong team commitment during long restoration and functional redevelopment works of the monument”, declares the Minister of Culture Gennaro Sangiuliano.
“This is another important step towards the full use of the central archaeological area of Rome, the largest in the world in an extraordinary urban context. Thanks to the incessant work of the Colosseum archaeological park and the huge resources that continue to be invested in the valorization of the site, from today citizens and visitors from all over the world will be able to enjoy an environment that reopens to the public after almost half a century after its closure,” says the Director of the Colosseum Archaeological Park, Alfonsina Russo.
The Domus Tiberiana was the first true imperial palace, built on the northwest slope of the Palatine Hill in the first century AD. The palace, in addition to its residential part, comprised large garden areas, places of worship, rooms for the Praetorian Guard to protect the Emperor, as well as a veritable service district overlooking the Roman Forum. Since the early Republican age, this side of the Palatine had been favored by Roman aristocratic families as the site of their houses, as it was immediately accessible from the Valley of the Roman Forum, as recorded in literary sources and confirmed by excavations. The first phase of the Domus Tiberiana attested by archaeological investigations is that of Nero, and
it dates from the aftermath of the fire of 64 AD, or to the same period
as the construction of the Domus Aurea. The palace underwent several extensions and renovations over time, the most important of which were by the emperors Domitian (81-96 AD) and Hadrian (117-138 AD), until it covered an area of about 4 hectares. The imperial palace remained in use until the 7th century, when it became the papal residence of John VII. After centuries of neglect, in the mid-16th century, the Farnese family laid out their gardens, the Horti Farnesiani, on the scenic terraces of the Domus Tiberiana, a splendid pleasure garden intended to host a new court.