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Domus Tiberiana

 p191  Article on pp191‑194 of

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

Domus Tiberiana: * the palace erected by Tiberius on the north-west half of the Palatine. It is first mentioned in the accounts of the assassination of Galba (Tac. Hist. I.27 (Otho) . . . per Tiberianam domum in Velabrum, inde ad miliarium aureum sub aede Saturni pergit, cf. III.84; Suet. Otho 6; Vitell. 15 cum (Vitellius) . . . incendium (on the Capitol) e Tiberiana prospiceret domo inter epulas; Plut. Galba 24), and must  p192 have been destroyed, not in the fire of Nero, but in that of 80 A.D. (Suet. Tit. 8; Hieron. a. Abr. 2096), for we are told that Vespasian ὀλίγα ἐν τῷ Παλατίῷ ᾤκει1 (which, if this palace, as well as the domus Transitoria, had been destroyed, he could not have done at all), and, as the construction and the brickstamps show, have been rebuilt under Domitian. Remains of an earlier house, in opus reticulatum, may be seen on the north side of the hill facing the Capitol, in and under the later substructions.

Caligula extended the palace towards the north-east (Suet. Cal. 22: partem Palatii ad Forum usque promovit, atque aede Castoris et Pollucis in vestibulum transfigurata, consistens saepe inter fratres deos, medium adorandum se adeuntibus exhibebat; cf. Cass. Dio LIX.28; Josephus xix.11 (71) certainly refers to the Basilica Iulia (q.v.)), and thus made it into so imposing an edifice as to excite Pliny's remark bis vidimus urbem totam cingi domibus Gai et Neronis (NH XXXVI.111).

Of the remains of the original building of Tiberius we know practically nothing; but scanty traces of the extension of Caligula down to the temple of Castor and Pollux have been recognised in the course of the latest excavations — a peristyle with a large open water-basin, 26 by 9 metres (in which a fragmentary inscription Ger]manici f. was found, which has generally been referred to Caligula), in the centre, situated behind the temple and orientated with the domus Tiberiana — and higher up, of the reservoir, in three stories, by which it was supplied with water. Of the stairs which must have connected this vestibule with the palace on the hill above, nothing now remains (Mitt. 1902, 81; HJ 85; AJA 1924, 368‑398). For the fine stucco decorations of the cryptoporticus see Mem. Am. Acad. IV.44, 45. It certainly was not in this cryptoporticus, but perhaps in the smaller one to the south-east, that Caligula was murdered (supra, 158; YW 1911, 10; contrast HJ 78; HFP 68); for such an under­ground passage may have been left as a ruin even by a fire which consumed the rest of the house. The cryptoporticus on the south-east side of the domus Tiberiana is sometimes attributed to Nero (ZA 198; Mem. Am. Acad. V. pl. 62); this would account for the break in the wall, where the branch to the Domus Augustiana (q.v.) goes off, which, of course, cannot be earlier than the time of Domitian.

Domitian appears to have reconstructed the whole palace; the excavations of 1728 on the summit of the hill brought to light some fragments of columns and cornices, which appear to have belonged to his time (Mitt. 1895, 266‑268), and some similar fragments still lie about the garden which occupies the site. Further excavations were carried on here in 1860 ff. as to which we have very scanty information; the whole rectangle (about 100 by 150 metres) seems to have had a large courtyard with pillars in the centre and to have been divided into three approximately similar parts, to judge from Rosa's plan. A great deal of it (more than is generally supposed) rests upon arched substructions; and that these have, as is only natural, undergone later repairs, is clear from the presence, a long way in, of a copy of the  p193 brick-stamp — CIL XV.1081 (145‑155 A.D.); but further investigation is needed. For some fine pieces of pavement in opus sectile, see PT 183.

It is, of course, easier to study the outer extremities of the palace. At the north angle we must attribute to Domitian the huge pile, on the level of the forum, erected over the peristyle of Caligula, but on a divergent orientation, which is commonly known as the temple of Augustus (q.v.) with the two halls behind it, often called the Bibliotheca Templi Divi Augusti (q.v.), into which the church of S. Maria Antiqua was inserted before the sixth century (HCh 309; Rushforth, PBS I.1‑123; Mitt. 1902, 74‑82; 1905, 84‑94; HC 161‑180; Grüneisen, S. Marie Antique (Rome 1911); Wilpert, Mosaiken und Malereien, ii. passim), but by others supposed to be a reconstruction of the vestibule of the domus Gaiana (Jahrb. d. Inst. xxxvi.1‑36).​2 To him we must also attribute the reconstruction of the exterior of the substructions of the palace itself, and especially the double-tiered balcony above the clivus Victoriae — the so‑called Bridge of Caligula (PBS VII.118‑120; AJA cit.); the rooms behind it are supposed to be guard rooms; see RA 63, 64; Mem. Am. Acad. IV.46‑48; HFP 67, 68.

single-tiered balcony of the same form continues all round the exterior of the substructions as far as the east angle (JRIBA 1922, p561, fig. 8: ASA 135: the type is quite frequent at Ostia).

[image ALT: An arched corridor, two stories tall but only about 1.50 meters wide, in a building of brick masonry, with here and there an opening or a walled-up archway. It is a partial view of the remains of the Domus Tiberiana in Rome.]
Inclined plane to Palatine (p193)

Hadrian enclosed the 'Temple of Augustus' group with a stately portico, with arcades connected by half columns. 'At the same time the lofty guardrooms on the slope above vanished, in their turn, behind even more lofty vaults and arches, which united the palace above to the new Atrium Vestae below, which is of the same period. As a link to unite these two great structures, Hadrian also built the majestic ramp by which one still ascends to the Palatine'; (AJA 1924, 398 and pl. X (Ill. 23); the plans in LF 29 = LR 155 and ZA 193 are less correct).

On the south-west side of the palace there are traces of work of the beginning of the second century A.D. (HJ 78, n96), especially in the vaulted chambers described in BC 1894, 95‑100; NS 1896, 162; LR 148, and in the open fish pond above them.

The domus Tiberiana is mentioned in Hist. Aug. Pius 10; Marcus 6; Verus 2, 6, as the residence of the emperors at that time (for the only evidence of reconstruction, see above), though by Domus Commodiana (Commodus 12) the Domus Augustiana (q.v.) is probably meant; and its library is spoken of by Fronto ad M. Caes. iv.5, p68, Naber, and Gellius XIII.20.1 (from whom is probably taken the false statement in Hist. Aug. Prob. 2: usus autem sum praecipue libris ex bibliotheca Ulpia — item ex domo Tiberiana: v. Forum Traianum).

Cf. also CIL VI.8653‑5 for inscriptions of slaves attached to it  p194 (8655a (= XIV.4120.3 = xv.7142), and 8656 should probably be added: the latter, which mentions domus Palatina, belonging probably to the time of Tiberius). It is also mentioned in the Notitia (Reg. X, Domum Augustianam et Tiberianam). See HJ 64, 76‑79; ZA 178, 189‑198.

For the graffiti (representing rope dancers) in a room at the lower level on the clivus Victoriae see Marucchi, Di alcuni graffiti del Palatino (1898); cf. Forum Romain et Palatin, 1903, 378‑380; BC 1895, 195‑196; AL 954.

The Authors' Notes:

1 Cass. Dio LXV.10.4. Josephus speaks of τὰ ἄνω βασιλεῖα (B. Jud. VII.5.4).

2 The two small openings in the back wall, one leading into each of the two halls into which S. Maria Antiqua was inserted, are, however, as Hülsen has pointed out, no proper continuation of a monumental entrance of this kind (cf. HFP 43).

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Page updated: 22 May 20