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Domus Augusti

p156 Article on pp156‑158 of

Samuel Ball Platner (as completed and revised by Thomas Ashby):
A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome,
London: Oxford University Press, 1929.

Augustus (1): the house on the Palatine, ad capita bubula (Suet. Aug. 5), in which Augustus was born and where he lived for some time.

Augustus (2): * the house of Augustus on the Palatine, which served as his residence subsequently; habitavit . . . postea in Palatio, sed nihilo minus aedibus modicis Hortensianis, et neque laxitate neque cultu conspicuis, ut in quibus porticus breves essent Albanarum columnarum, et sine marmore ullo aut insigni pavimento conclavia (Suet. Aug. 72; cf. 29: templum Apollinis in ea parte Palatinae domus excitavit, quam fulmine ictum desiderari a deo haruspices pronuntiarant). The house was thus originally that of Hortensius, and close to the temple of Apollo (q.v.); and if we identify the latter with the podium on the south-west side of the hill, the house of Hortensius will be that which is generally known as the house of Livia. Augustus also acquired the house of Q. Lutatius Catulus (q.v.), the site of which is not exactly known.

p157 We thus learn from Suet. that a part of the house of Augustus was struck by lightning and the temple of Apollo was erected on its site — in compensation for which the senate decreed that a house should be given to him out of the public funds (Cass. Dio XLIX.15.5). The enlarged house must have been ready at more or less the same time as the temple of Apollo; for on 13th January, 27 B.C., the senate decreed that an oak crown should be placed over the door (Fast. Praen. 13 Jan.; Mon. Anc. vi.13; Cass. Dio LIII.16.4; Ov. Fasti, i.509; iv.951; for a representation cf. the Sorrento base (Mitt. 1889, pl. X; 1894, 238 sqq.; SScR 76), and Cohen, Aug. 385 = BM Aug. 126).

The authors speak of its great simplicity, and of a lofty tower chamber, into which the emperor was glad to retire (Suet. Aug. 72, 73) and of an Aedicula et Ara Vestae (q.v.). The house was destroyed by fire in 3 A.D. (Cass. Dio LV.12; Suet. Aug. 57),a and Augustus only accepted pro forma the contributions made for its repair.

Hülsen suggests that the older remains under the basilica, peristyle and triclinium of the Domus Augustiana (v. p161) may belong to the palace of Augustus (HJ go). But even if we accept his theory as to the temple of Apollo, on which this depends, this is only possible for the former group, to which, however, the rooms under the large hall to the S.E. and the so‑called lararium must be added — if they do not belong to an independent house. And, as the temple was founded in a part of the original house (see above), this would make it far too large (Richmond in JRS 1914, 193‑194). On the other hand, if we identify the podium on the S.W. with the temple of Apollo (cf. Reber, 382), the house of Hortensius purchased by Augustus may well be identified (as Parker, Photo 2250, had already suggested) with what is generally known as the house of Livia. That it actually passed into her possession is very probable, from the discovery of lead water-pipes with the name Iuliae Aug(ustae) (CIL XV.7264), which most authorities refer to her. It has also been identified with the house of Germanicus, the father of Caligula, where the murderers of the latter hid themselves (Joseph. Ant. Iud. XIX.1.15 (117)), e.g. by LR 149‑151; cf. HJ 63 (but contrast the rejection of this theory, ib. 85, n109). But only the identification with the house of Augustus suffices to explain the fact that it was preserved unaltered down to the end of the classical period, as though it had been an object of veneration (see Domus Tiberiana). Water-pipes show that it remained imperial property at least until the time of Domitian (CIL XV.7285ib. 7265. L. Pescennius Eros Caesarum may be almost contemporary with 7264, the Caesares being either Gaius and Lucius or Tiberius, Drusus, and Germanicus).


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The house is approached by a small passage, accessible from the cryptoporticus of the domus Tiberiana, which leads into a court, p158most of which is paved with mosaic. On the right is a small triclinium, and next to it a wine cellar; and opposite the entrance are three vaulted rooms, facing N.W. and originally lighted by large lunette windows over the roof of the court. The paintings are similar to those which in Pompeii are assigned to the second style, and (especially in the central room of the three, wrongly called tablinum) their perspective owes much to scene painting (Mau in Ann. d. Inst. 1880, 136 sqq.; Gesch. d. Wandmalerei 167‑174; 196‑205; cf. HJ 62 n. 62).1

The other section of the house (perhaps the front) was only reached from the portion described by a narrow wooden staircase. At first it consisted of a courtyard surrounded by a portico with rectangular pillars, and rooms on two sides of it (N.W. and S.W.); the centre of it was then filled up by a large room; then the portico was split up into small rooms; and finally the cast angle was cut by a narrow cryptoporticus (YW 1911, 10), which has destroyed this front of the house — if there was one. There is a lower story, as to which no information is available at present.

On the S.W. are the scanty remains of a peristyle, at present cut off from the rest of the house by a road which is not ancient, but the result of restoration by Rosa (who excavated the house in 1869), which is identified as the atrium in which the senate met (JRS 1914, 207, 213 sqq.; Tac. Ann. II.37; XIII.5.2; Serv. ad Aen. VII.170‑175; XI.235). Its area is at least 14.20 by 15 metres, or even 22.70 by 20 (BC 1913, 199‑224) — certainly not as little as 6 by 15 (DAP 2.xi.13). It was built on the remains of an earlier house, a white mosaic pavement of which still remains under the vault of the cryptoporticus. This vault must have been set on the remains of the pre-existing building, and, though provided with windows, was never cleared out so as to be accessible. Further remains of both periods have also been found to the N.W. and S.W., but no description is available. See HJ 60‑63, 74‑76; BA 1914, Cr 73; YW 1920, 83‑84; ZA 178‑186.


The Authors' Note:

1 Cf. also Mitt. 1911, 6‑22.


Thayer's Note:

a Also Pliny, H. N. XXXV.83.


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