Friday, October 2, 2009

Wine - Women - & Nero

This wondrous structure - part of his magnificent Golden House palace - was described by the Roman historian Suetonius in the years following the emperor's eventual suicide in AD 68.

'All the dining rooms had ceilings of fretted ivory,' he wrote, 'the panels of which could slide back and let a rain of flowers, or of perfume from hidden sprinklers, fall on his guests.

'The chief banqueting room was circular and revolved perpetually night and day, in imitation of the motion of the celestial bodies.'

For centuries, historians have debated whether such a marvel really existed. But this week came news of an extraordinary discovery.

Digging on Rome's Palatine Hill, where emperors traditionally erected their most extravagant palaces, archaeologists unearthed a circular perimeter wall which, they believe, may have been part of the legendary building.

They also found a stone pillar some 13ft thick, and several large stone spheres which they believe may have supported a circular floor more than 50ft in diameter.

Some experts believe that the spheres were kept in constant motion by canals flowing below; others speculate that the mechanism was cranked by slaves.

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