Luxurious Ancient Roman Home With Extraordinary Mosaic Wall Unveiled Near Colosseum

| Tue, 12/12/2023 - 13:50
Full view of mosaic

Archaeologists in Rome working near the Colosseum have unearthed a lavish ancient home that holds an extraordinary mosaic wall, the Ministry of Culture announced on Tuesday. 

Dating from the time of the late Republic, portions of the multi-story domus and its walls were first brought to light in 2018 in ongoing excavations of the area once dominated by the Horrea Agrippiana — public warehouses along the Vicus Tuscus, the commercial road connecting the port of the Tiber River with the Roman Forum.

No modest man’s mosaic

mosaic materials
Materials include shells, Egyptian blue tesserae and white marble / Photo: Ministry of Culture handout

Set between the ruins of the warehouses and the slopes of the Palatine Hill, the home’s showpiece is a sprawling mosaic that visually anchors its central banquet hall or specus aestivus, styled as a grotto and used to entertain during the summer months.  

Fashioned from shells, Egyptian blue tesserae, fine glass, white marble and numerous other precious materials, the mosaic’s technical and narrative complexity is “unparalleled,” the Ministry of Culture said in a statement. 

Dating from the final decades of the second century BCE, the mosaic features scenes that archaeologists suggest imply a dual land-sea victory in battle by the homeowner, who was “an aristocrat, presumably of senatorial rank,” according to the ministry.

Panels accented by decorative lotus shoots and vines show elaborate “stacks” of warships, tridents and weapons with Celtic-style trumpets. In what may be an allusion to a wartime conquest by the homeowner, the mosaic’s upper-level lunette shows a coastal city flanked by small watchtowers and a cliff facing onto the sea, where three large ships, one with its sails raised, glide along. Another portion of the lunette depicts a tranquil, pastoral landscape.



In an adjacent reception room, archaeologists also uncovered white stucco carvings they say are “of the highest quality,” with intricate renderings of architecture and unspecified “figures.”

The discoveries are the culmination of a lengthy excavation set to conclude in early 2024. Alfonsina Russo, head of the Colosseum Archaeological Park, the body that oversees many of ancient Rome’s key monuments, said that authorities would “work intensively to make this place, one of the most evocative in ancient Rome, accessible to the public as soon as possible.”

Reiterating Russo’s commitment, the ministry noted that the domus will join an expanding series of “new and diversified visitor routes opened in recent years that make up the varied cultural offerings of the Colosseum Archaeological Park.”

If you go

ParCo — Colosseum Archaeological Park