Domus Tiberiana


Italia (Pleiades)
Italia, Regio I (Pleiades)


Roma (Pleiades)


Mons Palatinus (Pleiades)


Garden of the Domus Tiberiana, Palatine


Garden Description

The remains of this domus, on the western part of the Palatine, are now under the Renaissance Farnese gardens. The Domus Tiberiana is first mentioned after the death of Nero: Plutarch and Tacitus refer to it in the context of the turbulent events of 69 CE ( Plut. Galba, 24.4; Tac. Hist. 1.27; Suet. Vit. 15.3 | Trans.; Suet. Otho 6.2). It was an imperial residence for later emperors, including Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, and Lucius Verus (Hist. Aug. Pius 10.4 | Trans.; Hist. Aug. Marc. 6.3 | Trans.; Hist. Aug. Ver.2.4, 6.3-4 | Trans.; Cass. Dio 72.35.4 | Trans.), although Nero and Domitian appear to have made the most changes to the original design.

For Francesco I, Duke of Parma, F. Bianchini made the first recorded systematic excavations, from 1720 to 1729. Later excavations were carried out in the late nineteenth century and in the early twentieth century, with the most recent completed in the 1980s. Because of the Farnese gardens, however, the ancient substructures of the domus have not been fully explored.

The plan of the original domus is unknown, so that the earliest possible archaeologically recorded garden is during the time of Caligula, who extended the domus beyond the Clivus Victoriae to the Forum Romanum, making the Atrium Vestae and the Temple of Castor the main entrance to the Palatine. Behind the Temple of Castor, these additions included a peristyle and a pool (9 x 26 m.), suggesting the presence of a garden (Richardson, 137; Platner-Ashby; 191). Suetonius, relating the death of Caligula, refers to a diaeta, probably a pavilion within a garden, to which a solarium, perhaps a terrace covered by an awning, was connected.

Two inscriptions of the 1st century CE mention two imperial slaves ex Hermaeo (CIL VI, 8663; 9949) in the Domus Tiberiana and the name "Hermaeum" given to this diaeta suggest the use of herms as sculptures, perhaps along avenues and lawns, as known in other gardens (Fig. 3). Gardens are also assumed from inscriptions mentioning garden workers: a praepositus velariorum, that is the person who was responsible for the awnings of the solaria (CIL VI, 8649), a topiarius who tended the garden plants into fantastic shapes, (CIL VI, 8649) and a vilicus domus Tiberianae who oversaw the managing of the estate (CIL VI, 8655).

During the Swiss excavations of the 1980s, Clemens Krause identified 29 sectors in the Domus Tiberiana; 1-9 sectors were the nucleus of the complex and assumed for the “piano nobile” of the Domus Tiberiana, a well-constructed arrangement of dwelling units and gardens (Krause, 193).

Such reconstruction was later changed on the basis of the results of surveys, beginning in the first years of the present century, carried out on large sectors of the Horti Farnesiani and then extended to the underlying cryptoportici, which had very serious static problems. In fact the excavations brought to light, on what was in ancient times the “piano nobile" of the Domus Tiberiana, a large green peristyle; at the center was a large basin (vessel), with an internal profile made of alternating rectangular and semicircular niches and equipped with plays of water (Fig. 4). Only the northern part of the basin was preserved; this preserved section was covered by marble slabs, as shown by the extant marks. The basin, later restructured by the Flavii when the Domus Tiberiana was incorporated into the Palace of Domitian, is dated to the Julio-Claudian era, and is certainly related to a lead pipe carrying water to it, which bears the inscription TI CLAVDI CAES AVG, referring to the emperor Claudius ( CIL XV, 7269 a-b).

During the second building phase (II, 2) of the Domus Aurea, it was incorporated into the Domus Tiberiana (Krause, 193). A large platform (400 x 450 Roman feet), which included the addition of a perimeter wall as well as a system of waterproofing and drainage in sector 9, was added. A small cryptoporticus under a peristyle (100 x 150 Roman feet) was located in the center. On this platform Nero constructed buildings (Carandini, 13), and it appears that hanging gardens (nemora pensile), probably enclosed by a quadriporticus, surrounded it. At the southeast corner of the platform, according to Krause (Lexicon, 193), was an oval “vivaio;” a place for raising fish in an area that here remained open to the sky.

During the Flavian era, the garden was covered by new constructions in sectors 1, 3, 4 and 9 (Krause, 1990, 124). It was at this time gardens in sectors 7, 10, 11, and perhaps 12 were modified (Krause, 1990, 124).


Gardens of the Republican Domus (A)
Garden of the House of Augustus (B)
Garden of the Neronian Palace (D)
Garden of the Domus Flavia (E)
Garden of the Domus Augustana (F,G)
Garden of the Palatine Stadium (H)
Garden of the Severan Complex (I)


Plan of the Palatine

Fig. 1. Plan of the Palatine with the indication of the garden areas (Drawing Coop. Modus. Reworking E. Boschi. Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma, henceforth abbreviated as SAR).

Aerial view of the Palatine

Fig. 2. Aerial views of the Domus Tiberiana on the Palatine. Palatine Museum (Photo SAR).

Herms of the Palatine

Fig. 3. Herms from the Palatine. Palatine Museum (Photo SAR).

Basin of the Domus Tiberiana

Fig. 4. Oval pool in the southeast corner of the gardens (Photo Moscioni 246A).


1st century- 3rd century CE

Excavation Date

1720-1729: F. Bianchini
1860s: P. Rosa
1900-1901: G. Boni
1983-1988: C. Krause under the Swiss Institute of Rome 1990-: M. Tomei and M.G. Filetici under the Sopraintendenza Archeologica di Roma.


  • A. Carandini, “Il Giardino Romano nell’età Tardo Repubblicana e Giulio-Claudia” Roma Antica 2: Gli Orti Farnesiani sul Palatino. Rome: École Française de Rome (1990): 9-15. (worldcat)
  • C. Krause, “Domus Tiberiana,” Lexicon, Vol. 2., ed. Steinby, 189-197. (worldcat)
  • C. Krause, Domus Tiberiana I: Gli Scavi. Bollettino di Archeologia 25-27 (Rome 1994). (worldcat)
  • C. Krause, “Topografica antica nell’area dell Domus Tiberiana,” Roma Antica 2: Gli Orti Farnesiani sul Palatino. Rome: École Française de Rome (1990): 121-142. (worldcat)
  • A. Platner-Ashby, A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, London: Oxford University Press, 1929: 191-194.(worldcat)
  • L. Richardson, “Domus Tiberiana,” A New Topographical Dictionary of Rome. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992, 136-137. (worldcat)
  • M.A. Tomei, M.G. Filetici (eds.), Domus Tiberiana: Scavi e Restauri 1990-2011. Milano: Electa, 2011, partic. pp. 59-70; 222-229; 303-305. (worldcat)

Pleiades ID

Palatine Hill (Pleiades)


M.-A. Tomei
E.R. Macaulay


E.R. Macaulay (0000-0002-4551-7631)

Publication date

3 May 2021