The House of Augustus on the Palatine Hill, Rome, Italy

The truth is, I want to resemble Augustus, to have something of his character; to succeed, like him, in whatever goal I set myself, while simultaneously maintaining, also like him, a low profile, which I find more difficult to achieve.  If I were a man and were voted into office, I would surely copy him.  First and foremost I admire his prudence.  Nobody called him Imperator as he did not care for the title, fearing he might share the same fate as his uncle, Julius Caesar.  He was no scaredy-cat, just cautious. 

He thought up the name Augustus, which in Latin means the anointed one, venerable in other words, and something I greatly aspire to be, and he achieved this title much later in his life.  For the greatest part of his rule he was simply Octavius, his name since childhood. A prudent man. The only title he ever took was that of Princeps, prince. The first prince ever to be approved of by the Senate, and he deserved it.

After Gloria had finished inspecting her garden and I the article in the Messaggero, we went for a walk up the hill. It was the first day that the archaeologists were opening a part of Augustus’s palace to the public; three rooms all in all: his personal living room on the top floor, the cubiculum superior; a second room on the ground floor, the cubiculum inferior; and a third, larger room, where the emperor received his guests. 

Our being there was a happy conjuncture because we were not there to see the stones, dirt and scaffolding, assembled by the archaeologists but Augustus himself, walking through his home, sitting, writing, reading and even sneezing!  Oh yes, he was often congested. And then there were the murals.  They were exquisite!

“They look like those in Pompeii,” I mentioned to Gloria, as I gazed at them.

“There’s a difference,” she corrected me, “look at those vases over there, painted with a special brush. Also notice the illusion of perspective that the columns give and that make the space look larger. Oh, and those animals up high. The colours! Che raffinatezza!”

We were alone with the guard, and he was following us with each step we took and observing the murals with us, listening carefully to all of Gloria’s enthusiastic observations as it was his first day on the job. It was completely understandable that the tourists hadn’t read the Messaggero, and the Romans would come once they’ d organized everything with their various cultural organizations, but that would still take a few more days. We were lucky.

What really made an impression on me was that Augustus’ s residence in no way resembled a palace.

“It was his personal choice, and a very smart one at that,” Gloria explained...

Αn excerpt from the book Feeling Rome

The House of Augustus on the Palatine Hill in Rome, Italy

The House of Augustus on the Palatine Hill in Rome, Italy

Barbara Athanassiadis