3 – He Had a Pleasure Palace
For centuries, historians wondered if the legendary dining room in the magnificent Golden Palace, described by historian Suetonius, even existed. The writer spoke of how the dining rooms had ceilings made from fretted ivory. The panels of the ceilings would slide back, and perfume would come from sprinklers or else flowers would rain down on the guests. He continued by stating that the main banqueting room was circular and revolved 24 hours a day.
If the above seems unbelievable, an incredible discovery by archaeologists brought this dining room to life. Excavation on Rome’s Palatine Hill revealed a circular perimeter wall which may have been part of the building Suetonius spoke about. Other findings included a circular floor 50 feet in diameter, giant stone spheres and a 13 foot thick stone pillar. It has been suggested that the mechanism for the spheres was cranked by slaves.
The construction of the infamous Golden Palace infuriated Romans. Some even alleged that Nero started the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD to make room for the building although it’s unlikely the emperor had anything to do with starting the blaze. He did build the palace on the ruins of burned buildings and raised taxes to complete the construction of his pleasure palace.
A 120-foot bronze statue of Nero stood at the entrance, and the grounds contain an amphitheater and bathhouse complex. Exotic creatures roamed the entrance, and once guests averted their gaze from this stunning sight, they were led to the rotating dining room. There they would feast on delicacies including stuffed sow’s wombs, roasted dormice, Swan, and peacock. Guests were plied with gallons of wine and only stopped eating long enough to have sex with the male and female prostitutes the emperor had lined up. When they were full but wanted to eat more, they simply vomited into special bowls.
Nero was known for his love of music, and on occasion, he would inflict his ‘talent’ on his guests. He liked to strum a lute-like instrument or subject the audience to a lengthy poetry recital. It wasn’t just his guests that were forced to listen to his ramblings. Nero sometimes appeared in theaters and ensured the doors were locked so no one could leave before his performance was finished. Guests at his parties faced a similar fate; they had to eat, drink and indulge in sexual activity until Nero allowed them to leave. As the Golden Palace was only completed in 68 AD, it is unlikely there were many parties as it was the same year the emperor died.