Work on a new subway station in Rome has revealed an ancient residence that has been dubbed the “Commander’s House” or domus. It is the first of its kind to be discovered in the capital of Italy. Excavations being done by archaeologists in conjunction with the building of a subway line discovered the domus, which is connected to barracks of the Emperor Trajan’s Praetorian Guard that was discovered in 2016.
The Commander’s House was discovered some 40 feet below the level of the Amba Aradam station and near the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Experts will now dismantled the house and move it to a temporary location until it can be returned to its original site. During the move, the domus will be kept in climate-controlled containers, while work at the Amba Aradam station will resume.
Rome Archaeological Heritage Superintendent Francesco Prosperetti has already been in contact with law enforcement to preserve the domus. Of his conversation with ANAC chief Raffaele Cantone, Prosperetti said, "He assured me that the place will be made accessible to the public and the whole find will be put back in its place." Prosperetti said he already has funding for preserving the site. The domus will eventually be incorporated into the subway station.
The area in and around the Amba Aradam station has already yielded significant archaeological finds. In 2016, workers on the new C line of the Rome metro uncovered Pompeii-like finds including a dog's skeleton. Due to a fire in ancient times, archaeologists found artifacts such as a wooden ceiling and furniture that were preserved because of the exceptional environmental and climatic conditions, which resembled what took place in the volcanic eruptions of the First Century A.D. at Herculaneum and Pompeii. The wooden ceiling is unique in Rome. A skeleton of a dog, curled up in front of a door, was likely trapped inside the building at the time of the fire.
The ongoing excavation is taking place on the southern slopes of one of Rome’s famed seven hills, the Coelian Hill, which in the days of the Roman Empire featured the homes of aristocrats, while on the south side there were military buildings such as the barracks that were found on the Via Ipponio.
The domus that was found this month featured complete marble floors, mosaics, and frescoes dating to the time of the Emperor Hadrian, who was in power from 117 to 138 AD. During a press conference, Francesco Prosperetti said, “We think this is where the barracks’ commander used to live and relax after work.” The residence measures 3,200 square feet (300 square meters). Among its 14 rooms are a bathhouse with sub-floor heating.
Work on Rome’s metro stop is running years behind schedule. Rome is trying to install new stations along its Metro C line, but delays caused by archaeological excavations, scandals, and bureaucracy have set back the completion date by years. Authorities hope to get the station at Amba Aradam completed by 2021.