As the World Turns: Nero's Iconography and the Octagonal Suite of the Domus Aurea

Jennifer S. Kendall

University at Buffalo, SUNY

When the Octagonal Suite in the Esquiline Wing of Nero's Domus Aurea was discovered in the early 20th century, excavators believed that they had found the elusive rotating dining room described by Suetonius.  Although archaeological evidence has since dissuaded this theory, the Octagonal Suite is an important link to Nero's iconography.  This paper examines the relationship of the Octagonal Suite to Nero's larger propaganda program of the return of a Golden Age in Rome.  Drawing on wall and vault paintings in other areas of the Esquiline Wing, as well as other Neronian iconography, I will recreate the decoration of the Octagonal Suite and argue that what emerges is an imitation of a cosmic tent in the tradition of Hellenistic kings.  This use of cosmic iconography was part of Nero's larger promotion of a Golden Age in Rome and the Octagonal Suite with its astronomical decorations was a fundamental element in that promotion. 


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