Have we found Nero's rotating dining room?
OK, you knew that I would have to have my say on this. Actually I need your help.
The first I knew of this 'discovery' -- of Nero's famous dining room -- was when I got an email from the World Service, wondering if I had a view which could be broadcast. As it happened, I didn't (I had other things on today, even though the World Service is always worth helping out).
But I still haven't worked out what it was that had been 'discovered'.
The basic 'facts' go back to Suetonius, who claims in his 'Life of Nero' that in the famous 'Golden House'. Nero had some kind of revolving dining room: there were, Suetonius says, "dining rooms <plural> with fretted ceilings of ivory, whose panels could turn and shower down flowers and were fitted with pipes for sprinkling the guests with perfumes. The main banquet hall was circular and rotated day and night, like the heavens."
This vast palace took up huge tracts of land in the centre of Rome, but it has always been a bit unclear exactly what it looked like, and how far you could match up the literary descriptions with what remains on the ground.
And as usual there was a terrible temptation to equate what we can see with what the Romans
I was always told that the "octagonal room" (in the picture) in the excavated area was what Suetonius was referring to. How exactly it rotated, or what rotated, is anyone's guess. But obviously that's been a bit massaged (or forgotten) in the new story.
I am actually a bit baffled by these recent archaeological discoveries. I have only looked at them briefly. But where exactly ARE they? And, honestly, does a big pillar really prove that we have got a rotating dining room... and what exactly rotated anyway?
I half suspect that no such thing as a rotating dining room existed. But even if it did, I still don't see why these remains really do reveal whatever it was that Suetonius was talking about.
More to the point, how far do we really understand Nero's 'Golden House'? I have away thought that the excavated area might actually all be the servants' wing (despite the big 'octagonal room') -- and all the plush, celebrity areas were elsewhere.
Maybe.. but if anyone can help with this 'discovery' (like where is it), please tell. I always suspect with this kind of thing that there is an over optimistic attempt to match up the extravagant literary account with what remains under the ground.
And I suspect that the PR department is somewhere near -- plugging the "Nero connection" for all it's worth.