The Auditorium di Mecenate is a small monument near the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II in the Esquilino neighborhood of Rome. The monument is located inside a small public garden, which is never open. The main hall measures 11 by 24 meters and ends in a semi-circular apse. The entire interior of the complex used to be covered with frescoes.
Auditorium di Mecenate Rome
Address, opening hours and admission
Address: Largo Leopardi – Rome (tel. +39 06 0608). Admission: 6 Euros (concessions: 5 Euros). The monument can only be visited with a guided tour, organized by one of the various “cultural associations” of Rome. The cost of the tour is not included in the ticket.
History and description
Gaius Cilnius Mecenate was an influential man at the court of Emperor Augustus. Around the year 30 BC he commissioned the construction of a large villa with a number of gardens, most of which is now buried underneath the surrounding buildings.
The Auditorium is the only part of the villa that can be viewed. It was discovered in 1874, when the Via Merulana and the Largo Leopardi were constructed.
It is assumed that the Auditorium was meant for poetry readings and theatrical events. Poets like Horace and Virgil dedicated several works to Mecenate, whose name still lives on in the word Mecenas, patron of the arts.
There are some barely visible traces of frescoes on the walls of the Auditorium, the most striking of which shows a drunk Dionysus who can only stand on his feet with the aid of a satyr.
The Auditorium has a a semi-circular apse and was built towards the end of the time of the Roman Republic. This auditorium measures about 11 by 24 metres. At the back, it is narrower, as here there are six niches are carved into the wall on either side. The apse has five niches and a small seven-step tribune.
The monument used to be covered by a vaulted ceiling, but now has a modern roof.
When the monument was discovered, it was thought to have been an auditorium in the Horti di Mecenate. Nowadays, however, it is believed to have been a nymphaeum-triclinium, used in summer. Being partly underground, it was nice and cool.
There are two reasons why it is believed to have served as a nymphaeum. The first is that it was a partially underground space. The second is that pipes have been found that could have allowed for large quantities of water to be fed to the space.
Theatre performances were also held there.
A triclinium was a formal dining room, often very beautifully decorated to impress guests. In this case, the walls are graced with paintings from the 1st century, with recurrent motifs such as candelabra and peacocks. The niches of the hall, like the apse, are decorated with plants, flowers and birds to create an illusion of open windows.
The original floor was later covered with a new layer created according to the opus sectile technique (a Roman type of inlay work, using different materials).
The huge blocks of stone on the east side used to be part of the Wall of Servius Tullius.