The house of Augustus was located not far from the temple of Magna Mater. This house is usually referred to as the house of Livia, the wife of Augustus. Excavations uncovered lead water pipes that bore her first name, Julia. The house was purchased by Augustus, the first emperor, around 30 BC. The Palatine was a highly desired location to live at even during the early days of the Republic. It had a lovely view, the forum was nearby, but it also had a refreshing sea wind, which meant that Rome’s elite loved to have their homes built there.
The Roman historian Suetonius wrote in his ‘Emperors of Rome’ about the house of Augustus, which, compared to the palace of Domitianus, was very modest.
‘It was not so much large or awe-inspiring. […] For over forty years, Augustus used the same bedroom, not just for summers but also for winters, though he did feel that Rome’s winter, where he indeed preferred to spend his time that season, was detrimental to his health. Whenever he wished to work in solitude without being pestered, he had an isolated room on the upper floor, which he aptly named ‘Syracuse’ or ‘the studio.’ This is where he would retreat, or into the country house of one of his released slaves. But whenever he fell ill, he was nursed in the house of [his friend] Maecenas. […] The austerity of his furnishings and household are clearly seen by the beds and tables, which have been preserved to this day. Most of them would barely be sufficient for a regular citizen now. Even the bed on which he slept was, according to hearsay, kept low and simple.’
Cited and translated from: Jona Lendering, ‘Stad in marmer Gids voor het antieke Rome aan de hand van tijdgenoten’, Athenaeum- Polak&Van Gennep, Amsterdam 2002 p. 216. The translation of this text is from: Suetonius, Emperors of Rome (vert. Daan den Hengst) Amsterdam 1999. Click here for Wikipedia if you want to read more about Suetonius.
Their ‘homes’ were palaces. Our word palace comes from the world Palatine. In the tablinum ( map n. 4, reception halls) and the triclinium (dining room, map no. 6), the wall decorations can still be seen: frescos that are optically enlarged. By realistically painted architecture, like windows and columns, a view of the hinterlands can be seen.
After Augustus, the emperors Tiberius (ruled from 14-17 AD.) and Domitianus (ruled from 81-96 AD) radically changed the Palatine. Tiberius constructed a large palace, the Domus Tiberiana, in the north-west corner of the Palatine (map VII: domus Tibiana). Caligula (ruled from 37-41 AD) expanded the palace of Tiberius even farther north-eastward. The complex survived two large fires, including one under Nero. Since 1520, the palace has disappeared mostly underground. The cardinal Farnese had a terrace constructed atop the vaults of the palace.