Saturday, December 19, 2009

Nero's dining room

Archaeologists have found what they believe to be the rotating dining room of Roman emperor Nero (37 A.D.-68 A.D.). It was in this lavish room, the "coenatio rotunda," that the Nero held his banquets. Nero was known for his depravity, but his indulgences specific to the dining room were as follows:
  • The room revolved perpetually in imitation of the celestial bodies.
  • The panels of the ceiling slid back to allow a rain of flowers or perfume on the guests.
  • Nero's feasts lasted from noon to midnight, with guests taking breaks in warm or snow-cooled baths, depending on the weather.
September's discovery on Rome's Palatine Hill was in the form of a perimeter wall and several 13' wide pillars believed to have supported the 50' (or larger) room. It was kept in constant motion by the force of water against 4 spheres underneath. The remnants of the dining room were found during the excavation of Nero's sumptuous palace, which had been stripped, filled in, and built over after his suicide. It had been rediscovered in the 15th c. after someone fell through the ground into it, and many people - including Raphael and Michelangelo - followed to view the remaining frescoes. One archaeologist said, "People have been trying to find the rotating dining room for a long time. We don't have much idea about it except for what Suetonius tells us. It could have had a revolving floor, or possibly a revolving ceiling. If they really have discovered it, that would be exciting." Strange to say, the New York Times reported in 1913 that Italian excavator Commendator Boni had already discovered the dining room.

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