Days to Volume III Kickstarter Launch: 56
A happy July to you all! (July, of course, being named for Julius Caesar, which changed the name of the month from its original name, Quintilis, which was the fifth month of the Roman year, because the Roman calendar originally only had ten months, and stop me I'm getting pedantic.)
I'm writing directly from Rome herself this week to present an especially cool entry in the Roman Debauchery Fun Fact catalogue, about the man who was the platinum standard of Roman debauchery by any measure: the emperor Nero (A.D. 54-68). This entry is extra-special because it will contain photos and video from a seldom-seen part of Roman history, buried for centuries before being rediscovered in the 15th century and still being unearthed today: The Domus Aurea, or Nero's Golden House.
In July, A.D. 64, a fire broke out in Rome, sweeping the city and burning for six days and nights, ravaging all but a few districts. Nero blamed the Christians for the fire, and the first large-scale persecutions began as a result. The popular version of this story is that Nero sang "Fall of Ilium" (badly) and played the fiddle (even worse) while also watching the fire and doing nothing about it. It was even rumored that he had ordered the fire to be set. Both of these are unlikely because a) the fiddle didn't exist then, it would have been a lyre, b) Nero was out of town at the time of the fire, and c) a good portion of his own palace was destroyed in the conflagration. It has been suggested that he blamed the Christians to defer blame from himself; unfortunately, we can never know.
The reason he might have felt the need to defer blame might have been for what he did next: using the burnt-out land to build the largest pleasure palace Rome had ever seen.
Nero, on the other hand, was tickled pink, as he could "finally live like a human being." At least until...
Overthrow and Death
The House Vanishes
1400 Years (or so) Later...
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This is from an area called the Cryptoporticus, a high-vaulted passageway 70 meters (about 230 feet) long. It was once covered from floor-to-ceiling with paintings and frescoes of Greek and Egyptian gods, colorful patterns and trompe l'oeil ("trick of the eye") designs to make the space look even bigger than it was. Originally, the high windows and entrance allowed for copious light to flood this space. Here, the guide draws our attention to a fake window fresco, pointing out a bird resting on the window sill. (It is a dark spot, high up on the wall on the left side.)