Emperor Nero’s lost theatre found under site of hotel in Rome | Archaeology

The ruins of Nero’s Theatre, an imperial theatre referred to in ancient Roman texts but never found, have been discovered under the garden of a future Four Seasons hotel, steps away from the Vatican.

Archaeologists in Rome have excavated deep under the walled garden of the Palazzo della Rovere since 2020 as part of planned renovations on the frescoed Renaissance building. The palazzo, which takes up a city block along the broad Via della Conciliazione leading to Saint Peter’s Square, is home to an ancient Vatican chivalric order that leases the space to a hotel to raise money for Christians in the Holy Land.

The governor general of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, Leonardo Visconti di Modrone, confirmed during a news conference announcing the discovery that the hotel chain due to occupy the site was the Four Seasons. News reports have said the hotel is expected to be open in time for the Vatican’s 2025 jubilee, when an estimated 30 million visitors and pilgrims are expected to visit Rome.

Archaeological finds on a table, including a colourful and well preserved pottery jar and various small shards
Some of the finds at the site. Some of the pottery pieces are expected to shed light on a little known period in Rome’s history. Photograph: Matteo Nardone/Pacific Press/Shutterstock

Officials said the findings were “exceptional” because they provided a rare look at a period of Roman history from the empire through to the 15th century. Among the discoveries have been 10th-century coloured glass goblets and pottery pieces that are unusual because so little is known about this period in Rome.

Marzia Di Mento, the site’s chief archaeologist, said that previously only seven glass chalices of the era had been found, and that the excavations of this site had turned up seven more.

Archaeologists found marble columns and plaster decorated with gold leaf, leading them to conclude that the Nero’s Theatre referred to in texts by Pliny the Elder, the ancient Roman author and philosopher, was indeed located at the site, just off the Tiber River.

Officials said the movable antiquities would be taken to a museum, while the ruins of the theatre structure itself would be covered again after all studies were completed.


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