Nero’s Rotating Dining Room and mini-Colosseum Uncovered

  October 2, 2009 at 2:28 pm by

View the image at The Daily Mail

Revolving restaurants may seem to be decidedly modern invention; however it looks like they have existed for quite some time. For over 2000 years, in fact. Archaeologists have uncovered what they think are the remains of Nero’s extravagant rotating banquet hall. The ‘coenatio rotunda’ is thought to be the one described by Suetonius: “The chief banqueting room was circular and revolved perpetually night and day in imitation of the motion of the celestial bodies. All the dining rooms had ceilings of fretted ivory, the panels of which could slide back and let a rain of flowers or of perfume from hidden sprinklers fall on his guest.”

The partially excavated site is part of never-completed Golden Palace, one of Nero’s most extravagant projects, featuring 120ft bronze statue of the Emperor, an amphitheatre, a bath complex, waterfalls, gardens, zoos. The main dining room, with a diameter of over 16 meters, rested upon a 4-meter wide pillar and four spherical mechanisms that, likely powered by a constant flow of water, rotated the structure. Archaeologist Maria Antonietta Tomei said: “This cannot be compared to anything that we know of in ancient Roman architecture.”

View the image at Times Online

Another important discovery was made by a team of British archaeologists working in ancient Rome’s seaport, which has unearthed the remains of a “mini-Colosseum”. Archaeologists compare the importance of the site to Stonehenge or the great temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

The foundations of the tiny amphitheatre, dated to the early third century, were discovered inside the territory of a palace built 100 years earlier by Emperor Trajan, 25 kilometres southwest of Rome. The arena’s height and capacity are yet to be determined, however early studies suggests it could hold up to 2,000 people (by comparison, Colosseum could seat about 50,000). The find underscores how ancient arenas came in different sizes and were used for a variety of purposes. Lead archaeologist Simon Keay commented on this: “There are a lot of amphitheatres in the Roman world and people assume they were all used for animal and gladiatorial combat. But they could be used for other things, such as a private theatre or for administrative purposes.” The purpose of this particular amphitheatre is yet unclear. The discovery is particularly significant because amphitheatres were seldom built so close to harbours.

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