Project Description

Underground Rome: The Roman Homes on the Celian Hill under the Church of Paul and John

We’ll begin our tour by strolling along the ancient Clivus Scaurus (Scaurus’s Slope), where it’s easy to imagine wagon wheels creaking under heavy loads, the shouts of children playing amid yelping stray dogs, the taunts of delivery boys, and lost foreigners asking for directions. We’ll arrive at a large insula or apartment block and a neighboring domus or aristocratic home.  They create an interesting study in real-estate and ancient Roman town planning.  The insula, or apartment block, underwent a surprising transition: after housing Rome’s working class for over a century, it became the property of a local millionaire.  This trend was a typical toward the end of the Empire, when Rome’s economy suffered several severe downturns.  The new home owner renovated the multi-family apartments into a sort of McMansion, redecorating it to his complete satisfaction.  The redecorated insula’s frescoes are intriguing: many of them contain symbols and themes from different ancient religions.  To spice things up even more, the Catholic Church claims that in this apartment-building-turned-mansion, two Christians by the name of John and Paul were martyred.  That’s a murder mystery that we’ll explore in greater depth!

The archeological area is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

It pairs up with other underground Rome attractions (like the nearby church San Clemente) as well as different archeological areas that explore the idea of housing (e.g. the Imperial mansions on the Palatine Hill or the middle-class insulae of the Vicus Caprarius).

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