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The lost house of the first Roman Emperor was found!

Vita gazette – A team of archaeologists from the University of Tokyo has discovered the lost house of Rome’s first emperor, Augustus.

When Mount Vesuvius, located near Naples in Italy, erupted in 79 AD, Pompeii and many other critical ancient cities were left in ashes. The terrifying explosion also destroyed many artefacts from the Roman Empire. Even though nearly 2 thousand years have passed since this eruption, archaeologists continue to uncover the secrets swallowed by volcanic lava, ash and mud. A team of archaeologists from the University of Tokyo has discovered the lost house of the founder of the Roman Empire, waiting to be unearthed under a blanket of Vesuvius ashes.

Excavations started 100 years ago.

In the 1930s, in the Somma Vesuviana valley north of the volcano, researchers uncovered the ruins of a villa that many believe was Augustus’ former home. However, a lack of funds at the time prevented further exploration of the area. The University of Tokyo, in cooperation with local archaeologists, started an excavation in the area in 2002. Since then, they have discovered many Roman artefacts, including oversized, ornate marble statues, murals, plaster reliefs, and mosaics. However, in 2002, within this project’s scope, it was determined that this villa dates back to the 2nd century AD. So, it was built after the famous eruption in 79 AD and Augustus’s death. The villa was discovered in the 1930s: its size immediately made it clear that it was an aristocratic or imperial property.

Another buried villa

However, during the latest excavations conducted by researchers at the University of Tokyo in 2023, it was discovered that another building dating back to the 1st century AD was buried under this structure. This hidden villa was determined to be Augustus’s home.

Archaeologist Kohei Sugiyama from Tokyo University described the discovery in his statement:

“Excavations around Mount Vesuvius have been continuing since the 18th century. Various Roman artefacts were known to be buried under the ash and debris of the great eruption in 79 AD. Until now, most of the research has focused on the areas south of the volcano, but we have been exploring this villa north of the mountain for more than 20 years. We have been excavating and have recently uncovered some previously unknown rooms and architectural structures. As a result of our analysis using the radiocarbon method, we determined that these newly discovered sections were buried under volcanic ash from the eruption in 79 AD.”

During excavations in 2002, researchers concluded that the structure’s upper floors were built in the mid-second century and that the structure was built on the site of a concealed older villa.

This finding gave an insight into the local people’s rebuilding efforts following the disaster of 79 AD.

Emperor Augustus

Emperor Augustus, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, was the first emperor of Ancient Rome from 27 BC until his death in AD 14.

Augustus, one of the most significant figures of classical antiquity, ascended to the throne following the dictatorship of his great-uncle and stepfather, Julius Caesar.

Historical sources claim that Augustus spent the last years of his life in a villa north of Vesuvius, but the exact location of his house was unknown for centuries.

Somma Vesuviana and the Villa of Augustus: the hypothesis

Various hypotheses regarding the Emperor’s death have been proposed over the years. The most accredited one speaks of Nola, also thanks to the vague geographical indication “Apud Nolam” in the first book of the Annals of Tacitus.

According to Suetonius, the Emperor died in his family domus, which his wife Livia Drusilla of the gens Claudia had closed so as not to spread the news immediately. Cross-referencing the two authors’ writings, Augustus would still have died in a villa in Campania. According to Japanese archaeologists, the building in question would be the Villa Augusta of ​​Somma Vesuviana.

During a press conference held in Japan, a team of scholars from the University of Tokyo explained that “there are very high possibilities” that the place where Augustus took his last breath was the Roman villa of Somma Vesuviana, already renamed Villa Augustea for some time.

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