Nero’s theater has been discovered in Rome, during excavations for a new hotel near the Vatican.
A new Four Seasons hotel is being erected on religious land in Rome, and during excavations under what will be its gardens, an ancient theater was discovered.
The ruins date back to the first century AD, and they are confirmed be the theater of Roman Emperor Nero. Nero led Rome from 54-68AD, only fourteen years, but his reign has endured in history because of his love of public performance, his popularity with the common folk, and the Great Fire of Rome, which many blamed on Nero personally (falsely; he was in another city at the time). In its wake, he opened his palaces to shelter those displaced by the fire, and paid for food for the entire city out of his personal coffers.
His theater has been something of a holy grail for archaeologists, referred to in many ancient texts but never uncovered. The theater was in use for centuries before finally vanishing to history in the 15th century.
Proof that this is Nero’s theater was found in gold-leafed plaster and marble columns, which had been described in detail by Pliny the Elder, a first-century author and naturalist. But what experts are most excited about are a number of 10th century colored glass goblets and pottery pieces.
Marzia Di Mento, the site’s chief archaeologist, noted that previously only seven glass chalices of that era had been found, and that the excavations of this one site turned up seven more.
The portable finds will be carefully excavated and removed to a museum, while the ruins of the theater structure itself will be carefully studied and scanned for 3D reconstruction, then reburied to protect them long-term. The Four Seasons hotel will be allowed to build their garden atop the site.