Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Completed excavation of a 900-seat auditorium in Rome

By Archaeology Briefs

The Piazza Venezia, as seen from the Monument ...
The Piazza Venezia, as seen from the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II with the Palazzo Venezia to the left. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Archaeologists have presented the completed excavation of a 900-seat auditorium under Rome's Piazza Venezia, which they are hailing as the city's most significant discovery since the Roman Forum was unearthed 80 years ago.

The ancient arts complex or "Athenaeum", which lies 5.5m underground, dates to 123 AD. It comprises three halls whose 13m-high arched ceilings and terraced marble seating once provided space for Rome's noblemen to listen to poetry and philosophy. Its construction is believed to have been funded by Emperor Hadrian, who was a keen patron of the arts.

After the fall of the Roman empire, archaeologists believe that the complex was used to smelt ingots and mint coins during the Byzantine era, while from the 16th- to the 19th centuries one of the halls served as a hospital cellar. An earthquake in 848 AD led to a large part of the structure's roof collapsing onto the floor of one of the halls, where it still remains.

The archaeologists' discovery follows five years of excavations and came about as a result of digging for the capital's third underground line, the troubled Metro C, part of whose route was designed to run from the Colosseum to St Peter's.

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