The Home of Emperor Augustus Draws a Crowd

In the 1970s, a tiny scrap of painted wall gave way to an amazing discovery of frescoed walls commissioned by one of the first and very famous Roman Emperors, Augustus. After decades of reconstruction, the home of Augustus is open to the public, albeit only five people at a time.

In the 1970s, a team of archaeologists began a search for the home of Augustus, which was known to overlook the Roman forum. After an exhaustive hunt, a tiny scrap of frescoed wall led them to the house buried under 2,000 years of rubble and debris.  The frescoes were protected for the most part, and the vivid shades of red, blue and ochre became accessible to the public in March.

The frescoes were painted around 38 BC and have been painstakingly restored for almost half a century. The artwork is still considered so fragile only five guests are allowed into the house to view the works at a time.

Inside the House of Augustus, you’ll find four rooms with over 2m euros worth of preservation. The rooms are believed to be a bedroom, a dining room, a small study and a ground floor reception room. Each of the rooms is decorated with frescoes. These works of art are among the most breathtaking of the period examples found, and are considered by experts on par with discoveries in Pompeii and Herculaneum.

The most interesting of the frescoes is in a large room and centers on a painting of a large stage with small side doors. The theatrical theme continues throughout the entire room including a theatrical mask peeking in through a small window near the ceiling. Another room is decorated with an elegant garden vista including yellow columns and a meticulous blackbird.

The frescoes are through to have been done by an Egyptian, and there is evidence of the home’s builders as well – very strong evidence, in fact, as they left their names behind. In a large entrance hall there is a patch of graffiti showing geometric patterns possibly detailing a mosaic tile design. Under the designs, the builders signed their names.

While the frescoes might be magnificent, the house itself is not. Augustus, formerly known as Octavian, lived in a modest home until crowned the first Emperor of Rome following his win over Egypt in 31 BC. As Emperor, he left his modest home behind for us to discover and enjoy and built a sprawling palace higher on the hill.