The House of Livia | Attraction Guides | History Hit

The House of Livia

Rome, Lazio, Italy

Antara Bate

24 Nov 2020

About The House of Livia

The House of Livia, also known as Livia’s House or Livia’s Villa, was the home of Livia Drusilla (58 BC–29 AD), the third wife of Augustus, the first emperor of the Roman Empire, and the mother of its second emperor, Tiberius.

The House of Livia history

Powerful and formidable, Livia was an important figure of Ancient Rome, a status she managed to maintain even after Augustus’s death. It even became treasonous to speak against Livia. Robert Graves memorably portrayed the figure of Livia in his I Claudius series.

The House of Livia was excavated in the nineteenth century, and identified as belonging to Livia after the discovery of a lead pipe labelled “IVLIA AVGVSTA”. It is likely that Livia often shared the house with Octavian, and it may have been here that she gave birth to Tiberius, the future emperor.

An 1863 excavation of the house of Livia in the Roman suburb of Prima Porta uncovered a series of four magnificent frescoes decorating the walls of an underground triclinium, or dining room. These illusionistic wall paintings are filled with images of exotic birds and a variety of flowers, plants, and trees. The flora and fauna were depicted in such great detail that scholars have been able to identify many of the species represented. Among the vegetation, for instance, are strawberry trees, oleander, Italian cypresses, date palms, and English oak. These images were surely intended to provide visual entertainment for guests and likely contributed a sense of comfort and openness to the subterranean space. However, it has also been suggested that this natural imagery functioned on a symbolic level as well.

The House of Livia today

The House of Livia is set on the Palatine Hill, Ancient Rome’s most desirable location. The house still has the original access with a corridor in mosaic with white background with black tiles. Through this corridor is a courtyard with three rooms covered with beautiful paintings of the Second Style, with mythological and genre scenes, landscapes and architecture in perspective.

Getting to the House of Livia

Palatine Hill is next to the Colosseum, across from Capitoline Hill, and above the Roman Forum. To access the site by metro, travel on Blue Line B and the nearest stops are Circo Massimo and Colosseo. There are also lots of buses that go either to or near to Palatine Hill or the Colosseum.

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