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Guest Bruce5

Nero's Golden House And Its Ideology

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Guest Bruce5

I've been studying the Domus Aureus of Nero, his so-called palace. Though the imagery is striking and something I'd enjoy looking at for itself, at present I'm more interested in its meaning. That is, the overall meaning-plan of Fabulus (Famulus) and his collaborators. One of the common interpretations of the ideological plan of Nero's master-painter Fabulus seems to be that its was bifurcated. The East wing supposedly was devoted to Dyonisian themes, culminating in a belief in some afterlife, the proof of this being the many depictions of figures being saved from danger, or lifted into heaven (Ganymede by Zeus as an eagle). The West wing seems to have made this salvation theme more political: according to the school of thought I've been reading, the images are Oddysean in nature in the main because Nero, after the great fire, wished to be perceived as the founder of a new age (sort of a variant on the novus ordo saeclorum of Augustus, but apparently not as serious. That at any rate is the interpretive theory.

 

I'd be very interested in other interpretive theories of the ideology and images portray on the walls of the Golden House. The above theory raises so many unanswered questions. For instance--IS there really ONE overarching ideology to be found distributed in two parts, in the East and in the West wings? Also: the figure of Dionysius is one of the most slippery, if popular, in all antiquity, to my mind. For one thing, just as Dionysius himself changes, a little before Socrates, from being an adult man to becoming a hermaphroditic youth after that, don't the Dionysian thiasoi themselves change in their meaning? At a certain point you can see a definite slant toward the astrological--the salvation element--not in this world (in the sense of good health, good luck etc) but in a belief in a Pythagorian-type afterlife.

 

I would welcome anyone who could help me unravel the ideological mystery of the images and concepts depicted on the walls of Nero's great Domus. IS there a master plan after all? If so, what? If not, what, generally can outsiders (us in our day) glean from these fascinating paintings, stucco work, marbles, etc--in terms of MEANING? Thanks to one and all!

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I do like the Ideas, personally, I find that the Domus Auerius was a representation of Nero's personality, he was not a politician or Emperor, but a star. That is what he saw himself as, a celebrity.

 

I think we can relate the ideas presented in his Golden House and other places, to a modern day movie star or rich musician. On one hand, they all want two things, to be the best, and in this be the crowds favorite, to do something great for the world and more importantly, the people on it. They (often now a days in a weird sickening fashion) that doing that is contributing to the world, bringing about a new era (more so for them than anyone else) of happiness (for them mostly) and peace. This makes sense with the Ideas presented in the West Wing of the Golden House, that Nero should be the person bringing about this new era, not as an Emperor like Agustus, but as a star.

 

However, there is a flip side. He (like all stars) wants to enjoy themselves in what ever way they happen to find amusing at the time. This can be related to the East Wing, the themes of Bacchus, with all the wild parties, drinking and sick demented (at least in my view) joy. What more could one want, women and wine, the ultimate goal for any star. To raise them self to that bar where they can do what ever they want, when they want, no matter the consequences. This of course, was a given because Nero was a Emperor, and therefore had these abilities already. So that is what he did.

 

Ultimately, the Golden House is a great representation of Nero and his personality. The conflict of two themes, two separate life styles, and how they can not mix, and he wanted them to. Ironically, he had infinite power over every thing around him, but had no ability to control himself.

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At the risk of sounding completely old-fashioned, I don't see any ideology in architecture at all. Ideas--obviously; ideology--how??? You could read anything at all in the fact that a building has one wing, two wings, or no wings.

 

I'd be very interested in other interpretive theories of the ideology and images portray on the walls of the Golden House. The above theory raises so many unanswered questions. For instance--IS there really ONE overarching ideology to be found distributed in two parts, in the East and in the West wings? Also: the figure of Dionysius is one of the most slippery, if popular, in all antiquity, to my mind. For one thing, just as Dionysius himself changes, a little before Socrates, from being an adult man to becoming a hermaphroditic youth after that, don't the Dionysian thiasoi themselves change in their meaning? At a certain point you can see a definite slant toward the soteriological--the salvation element--not in this world (in the sense of good health, good luck etc) but in a belief in a Pythagorian-type afterlife.

 

So what? These were changes that were not even contemporaneous with the building of the Domus Aurea--so how on earth are these facts relevant to whether the building has one ideology or several.

 

My take: the building doesn't have any ideology because the building doesn't have brain.

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My take: the building doesn't have any ideology because the building doesn't have brain.

 

Can the architects ideology not be reflected through their building design ?

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My take: the building doesn't have any ideology because the building doesn't have brain.

 

Can the architects ideology not be reflected through their building design ?

 

Ideas--yes; ideology--seems a stretch. For example, what exactly would it mean to build a 'populist' building? To take a poll of every fishmonger's opinion on pediments??

 

It seems to me that two architects with very similar ideologies are as likely to build radically different buildings as to build quite similar ones--unfortunately, architects simply don't get to build exactly what they want. Too often they compromise their original vision with the competing (even irrational) demands of clients, city-councils, peers, and so forth. So, even if the architect were a true visionary, his buildings aren't likely to provide much insight into his ideology.

 

I guess if more architects were like Howard Roark, I'd change my mind.

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It seems to me that two architects with very similar ideologies are as likely to build radically different buildings as to build quite similar ones--unfortunately, architects simply don't get to build exactly what they want. Too often they compromise their original vision with the competing (even irrational) demands of clients, city-councils, peers, and so forth. So, even if the architect were a true visionary, his buildings aren't likely to provide much insight into his ideology.

 

Unless the designer is all of the above, such as Hadrian designing the Pantheon, then there are few in history who have been able to build with unopposed creativity. Even the great Apollodorus of Damascus (Trajan's famed engineer who designed such monuments as the Danubian bridge into Dacia, Trajan's Column and Forum, etc.) was banished and possibly executed for his slander of Hadrian's designs and skill.

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I thought about mentioning Hadrian as the limiting case.

So, knowing nothing else about Hadrian, what would you conclude about his ideology from his "melons"?

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I thought about mentioning Hadrian as the limiting case.

So, knowing nothing else about Hadrian, what would you conclude about his ideology from his "melons"?

 

I can't. I'm afraid my brain just doesn't function that way. I would suggest maybe it was some sort of Freudian infatuation with his mother, but how would that explain Antinous :):blink::rolleyes:

 

Sorry, I'll excuse myself from this thread before I send it in an off topic spiral.

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I thought about mentioning Hadrian as the limiting case.

So, knowing nothing else about Hadrian, what would you conclude about his ideology from his "melons"?

I can't. I'm afraid my brain just doesn't function that way. I would suggest maybe it was some sort of Freudian infatuation with his mother, but how would that explain Antinous...

 

Exactly my point--even when an architect is an emperor, it's nearly impossible to discern any "ideology" from the building itself. Attempts to do so are like reading tea-leaves.

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Exactly my point--even when an architect is an emperor, it's nearly impossible to discern any "ideology" from the building itself. Attempts to do so are like reading tea-leaves.

 

Agreed, I was thinking about a doco I watched on Ludwig Mies van der Rohe when I asked the question, he clearly expresses ideas or things that are important to him aestheticly through his buildings, but I can discern no specific ideology.

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I've been studying the Domus Aureus of Nero, his so-called palace. Though the imagery is striking and something I'd enjoy looking at for itself, at present I'm more interested in its meaning. That is, the overall meaning-plan of Fabulus (Famulus) and his collaborators. One of the common interpretations of the ideological plan of Nero's master-painter Fabulus seems to be that its was bifurcated. The East wing supposedly was devoted to Dyonisian themes, culminating in a belief in some afterlife, the proof of this being the many depictions of figures being saved from danger, or lifted into heaven (Ganymede by Zeus as an eagle). The West wing seems to have made this salvation theme more political: according to the school of thought I've been reading, the images are Oddysean in nature in the main because Nero, after the great fire, wished to be perceived as the founder of a new age (sort of a variant on the novus ordo saeclorum of Augustus, but apparently not as serious. That at any rate is the interpretive theory.

 

I'd be very interested in other interpretive theories of the ideology and images portray on the walls of the Golden House. The above theory raises so many unanswered questions. For instance--IS there really ONE overarching ideology to be found distributed in two parts, in the East and in the West wings? Also: the figure of Dionysius is one of the most slippery, if popular, in all antiquity, to my mind. For one thing, just as Dionysius himself changes, a little before Socrates, from being an adult man to becoming a hermaphroditic youth after that, don't the Dionysian thiasoi themselves change in their meaning? At a certain point you can see a definite slant toward the astrological--the salvation element--not in this world (in the sense of good health, good luck etc) but in a belief in a Pythagorian-type afterlife.

 

I would welcome anyone who could help me unravel the ideological mystery of the images and concepts depicted on the walls of Nero's great Domus. IS there a master plan after all? If so, what? If not, what, generally can outsiders (us in our day) glean from these fascinating paintings, stucco work, marbles, etc--in terms of MEANING? Thanks to one and all!

 

 

I think Nero was the first one to build such an extreme project (Golden House) for himself. I saw a great show on Rome today and they went through the propaganda that was probably part of Nero's downfall. Augustus had built a Forum and Temple for the people, Vespasian the Flavian Ampitheatre (Coliseum), Caracalla the Great Baths, Trajans forum and basically propaganda column with his victories over Dacia. But, Nero builds this huge pleasure palace with lakes, acres of grass land etc. I knew this but the word "grotesque" comes from the frescoes of the Golden House. You make some interesting points and I think it deserves further thought. I actually snuck into the Golden House when I was in Rome, it was closed! I went in and it was pretty awesome! It was me and about 100 cats which are all over Rome. I know they have some great computerized images of how they thought it looked.

 

Joe Geranio

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I think ideology CAN be transmitted clearly through buildings and their imagery.

 

The Forum of Augustus in Rome and its scheme of statuary was widely copied in Italy - the building of Eumachia in Pompeii reflects this (to give just one example).

 

Domitian's Palatine Palace is also a forward step that reveals a clear and relatively new statement about the position, role and relationships of the ruler and his subjects. The whole design - I have developed this argument on another thread - is different in nature from anything Augustus (for instance0 would have approved. It also clearly fits like and hand and glove, with Domitian's conception of his role - Dominus et Deus!

 

Now the Palatine exercise may have drawn much inspiration from the earlier Domus Aurea (which Domitian would have known). Again, I have qritten elsewhere recently of the need to consider the Domus as more than simply a residence - but as an exercise in Government conveyed in marble.

 

Roman building was often political in import and message - the temple of Claudius at Colchester is an example; so too probably was the palace at Fishborne..

 

As for Hadrian his villa at Tivoli is surely an expression of his vision and of an Antonine view of empire. The Temple of Venus and Rome (the pun on ROMA/AMOR only works in Latin) clearly includes political and ideological messages.

 

I would argue that the whole Forum Romanum was a massive exercise in ideology which ran through almost the whole of Roman history - why would Caesar put so much emphasis and expend so much time on restructuring it? he did not just restore damaged buildings - he repositioned them. To me a clear statement of a change in the political structure at Rome.

 

Staying with Caesar - surely his Forum is a complete political statement and was intended as such - Trajan's similarly at a later date.

 

 

In haste, but hoping for a deeper analysis,

 

Phil

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I've been studying the Domus Aureus of Nero, his so-called palace. Though the imagery is striking and something I'd enjoy looking at for itself, at present I'm more interested in its meaning. That is, the overall meaning-plan of Fabulus (Famulus) and his collaborators. One of the common interpretations of the ideological plan of Nero's master-painter Fabulus seems to be that its was bifurcated. The East wing supposedly was devoted to Dyonisian themes, culminating in a belief in some afterlife, the proof of this being the many depictions of figures being saved from danger, or lifted into heaven (Ganymede by Zeus as an eagle). The West wing seems to have made this salvation theme more political: according to the school of thought I've been reading, the images are Oddysean in nature in the main because Nero, after the great fire, wished to be perceived as the founder of a new age (sort of a variant on the novus ordo saeclorum of Augustus, but apparently not as serious. That at any rate is the interpretive theory.

 

I'd be very interested in other interpretive theories of the ideology and images portray on the walls of the Golden House. The above theory raises so many unanswered questions. For instance--IS there really ONE overarching ideology to be found distributed in two parts, in the East and in the West wings? Also: the figure of Dionysius is one of the most slippery, if popular, in all antiquity, to my mind. For one thing, just as Dionysius himself changes, a little before Socrates, from being an adult man to becoming a hermaphroditic youth after that, don't the Dionysian thiasoi themselves change in their meaning? At a certain point you can see a definite slant toward the astrological--the salvation element--not in this world (in the sense of good health, good luck etc) but in a belief in a Pythagorian-type afterlife.

 

I would welcome anyone who could help me unravel the ideological mystery of the images and concepts depicted on the walls of Nero's great Domus. IS there a master plan after all? If so, what? If not, what, generally can outsiders (us in our day) glean from these fascinating paintings, stucco work, marbles, etc--in terms of MEANING? Thanks to one and all!

 

You might be trying to find meaning in something merely decorative. Although Nero was an astonishing personality, I doubt he was an architect and decorator. True, he no doubt had a say on the buildings apperance, but some other nameless engineer was called upon to unveil the scale model or blueprints hoping to satisfy Caesar as to its magnificence. Nero possibly said that he wanted such and such a room decorated like this, or like that, but these decisions reflect his personality and taste, not his ideology.

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A definition of ideology is probably required. As mentioned by Cato earlier, an idea and an ideology are not the same thing, at least I don't think so anyway. I can see ideas expressed in buildings, and using hindsight I can assign all kinds of attributes to Roman buildings, which the architect probably never intended, and the people of the time probably didn't see.

 

Phils point on the Forum is interesting though, although not just one building.

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