Guide To The House Of Augustus On Palatine Hill

The House of Augustus was the home of Rome’s first emperor Augustus. It stands as a symbol of the transition of Rome from a republic to an imperial empire.

The House of Augustus opened in 2014 after decades of excavation. The site is basically a “new attraction,” only open on a limited basis only with the SUPER ticket.

The House of Augustus boasts some of the best preserved Roman walls on the planet, decorated with vibrant 2,000 year old frescos.

In this guide, I’ll give you a short history of Augustus and tell you everything to see at his house. You’ll see three spaces: the private apartment, the public sector, and Augustus’ study. It’s a thrill to walk through a place with so much history!

>>> Click to book a SUPER ticket on Viator

ruins of the House of Augustus in Rome Italy
ruins of the House of Augustus

Who Was Augustus?

To understand the House of Augustus, you’ve got to understand the man who built it. Augustus was one of the world’s luckiest, and most successful, men. Born in 63 BC, he was named Gaius Octavius and called Octavian.

Octavian was promoted quickly. He attended Caesar at his first triumph and fought with him in the Spanish campaign. Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC. Under Caesar’s will, Octavian (just age 18) was posthumously declared Caesar’s adopted son and heir.

Augustus’ rise to power was marked by strategic maneuvers and conflicts. After Caesar’s assassination, he became a senator, then consul, and formed a triumvirate with Mark Antony and Marcus Lepidus.

Octavian, the shrewdest, deified Caesar, making himself the son of a god. The empire was divided, but ambition and internal conflicts soon led to war Octavian triumphed.

1st century Augustus of Prima Porta in the Vatican Museums
1st century Augustus of Prima Porta in the Vatican Museums

Octavian changed his name to Augustus and became Rome’s first emperor. Augustus revived Republican traditions. At least on the surface, he sought to placate the Senators and distance himself from any perceived military despotism.

Augustus also overhauled the administration of the empire. He ushered in 200 years of peace and prosperity, known as the Pax Romana. Art and literature flourished.

With Agrippa’s help, Augustus spent massive sums on the architectural adornment of Rome. The historian Suetonius wrote that Augustus “could justly boast” that he had “found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble.”

But Augustus fancied himself a man of the people. So he built a relatively modest house consistent with the Roman tradition of simplicity. He also wanted to distance himself from prior excess and portray himself as a selfless leader.

entrance to the House of Augustus on Palatine Hill
entrance to the House of Augustus on Palatine Hill

House of Augustus: What To See

The House of Augustus was first unveiled to the public in 2014, the 2,000 year anniversary of Augustus’ death, after many years of restoration.

The restoration included installing protective roofing, stabilizing the buildings, conserving the frescos, and creating a route for visitors.

I suggest visiting this site during one of the multimedia shows. They’re held three times a day at 10:30 am, 11:30 am, and 2:30 pm.

You’ll watch an excellent 5 minute introductory video about the house. Using computer-generated lighting, sound, and projections, the multimedia show recreates the frescos and makes them come to life.

I also highly recommend this guided tour with a PhD. I had an excellent guide.

photograph of a model of what it once looked like
photograph of a model of what it once looked like


For nearly 2,000 years, the House of Augustus on Palatine Hill lay hidden. Archaeologists only discovered the ancient home in the 1960s. The House of Augustus marked the transformation of Palatine Hill from a residential area into an imperial seat.

The house is located on the most sacred area of the Palatine Hill, near the symbols of Roman power.

It was built near the Temple of Apollo (which Augustus could access by ramp from his peristyle) and on top of the sacred Cave of Lupercal, where the She Wolf of Rome nursed the twins Romulus and Remus.

Right next door are the ruins of the “Hut of Romulus.” This may be the spot where Romulus lived in the 8th century BC, though most believe him to be a purely legendary character.

decorations on the exterior of the House of Augustus
decorations on the exterior of the House of Augustus


Comprising two levels, the House of Augustus served as Augustus’ primary residence during his reign.

It was arranged around two courtyards, linked by an open promenade. Emperor Domitian, a more megalomaniacal sort, demolished much of it when he built his massive palace.

The word “palace” originates from Palatine Hill. But Augustus never lived in a palace in the traditional sense.

He slept in the same small bedroom for 40 years and had his family weave his clothes. Augustus never wore a crown, or a purple toga, or other insignia of personal power.

The western end of the house held the domestic rooms. The eastern end held the public reception rooms. The tour begins with the two rooms in the domestic section of the house.

What you see is only a small part of what was once a much larger complex.

ruins of the House of Augustus
ruins of the House of Augustus

Frescos & Rooms

The House of Augustus is most celebrated for its lavish red Pompeian frescoes. They’re the best preserved frescos from ancient Rome, definitely on a par with those in Pompeii.

Most of the frescos are executed in the Second Pompeian Style, called the “Architectural Style.” It originated in Pompeii, became fashionable, and was then adopted by Augustus.

The style emphasized architectural features and illusionistic compositions. Artists used columns, faux marble blocks, and stoas to frame fantastic images. The use of vanishing points made the walls seem three dimensional.

The most exquisite frescos are in the Pine Room, the Room of the Masks, and the Room of the Perspective Paintings — so named for their recurring motifs.

fresco in the Room of the Pine Festoon
fresco in the Room of the Pine Festoon

The Pine Room has a simple architectural scheme.

There are Doric columns with pine festoons, and porticos. The pine cone was the symbol of Cybele, whose temple was next to the House of Augustus.

Just behind the Pine Room is the Room of the Masks. This room has some of the finest frescos in the house, depicting theater themes in the Second Pompeiian Style.

You’ll see stylized creatures and tragic and comic theater masks. The room is painted to look like wooden theater sets standing on a stone podium.

Room of the Masks
Room of the Masks

Next is a series of five rooms along the north side of the western court.

The rooms include two libraries and a tablinum (the guest reception room) with rooms on either side of the tablinum.

One of the rooms is called the Room of the Perspective Paintings.

The frescos depict a two story architectural facade in vibrant colors of blue, yellow, red, and white. The frescos turn the room into a sort of colonnaded pavilion.

Room of the Perspective Paintings with lighting effects
Room of the Perspective Paintings with lighting effects

The path continues to the eastern, or public, section of the house. The most striking room is the Ramp Room.

The Ramp Room has a ceiling painted to mimic a real coffered ceiling. The ceiling is decorated with a painted pattern of diamond and square shaped elements containing rosettes.

To give a sense of depth, dark colors were used for the recesses and lighter colors for the frame.

The next room is called the Large Oecus. It depicts architectural wall paintings, with four pediments supported by four columns.

Among other functions, this room served as a living room or the setting for elaborate dinner parties.

The final room is by far the most elegant room in the House of Augustus. It’s the Emperor’s Study, where Augustus burned the midnight oil.

It’s up a flight of modern steel staircase when you exit the main building. Today, the vibrant frescos are covered by protected glass.

videos of frescos in the study
frescos in the study

The walls in this room are somewhat more characteristic of the Third Pompeiian Style. This fresco style used large monochromatic planes of color, usually red or black, and veered away from illusionary effects.

The walls were decorated with stylized and miniaturized Egyptian motifs, gryphons, and floral elements.

These were similar to the “grotesque” frescos later found in Nero’s Domus Aurea, which later influenced Renaissance artists.

The wall colors are bold — green, black, and yellow. The ceiling decoration is rendered in lighter colors and white stucco. The dominant colors are pink and white, with hints of violet and gold.

ceiling frieze in the Emperor's Study
ceiling frieze in the Emperor’s Study

Tips For Visiting the House of Augustus

Address: Palatino Parco Archaeologico del Colosseo. To visit the House of Augustus, use the Palatine entrance at via di San Gregorio 30.

Hours: 9:30 am to 3:30 pm. Last entry at 3:00 pm. Sound and lights shows at 10:30 am, 11:30 am, and 2:30 pm.

Tickets: To visit, you need to purchase the SUPER ticket. Individual tickets are not available.

You can buy the SUPER ticket online on the Coop Culture website or buy a ticket on Viator

The SUPER ticket gives you access to 8 sites: Neronian Cryptoporticus, Nero’s Domus Transitoria, the Palatine Museum, Aula Isiaca-Loggia Mattei, House of Augustus, House of Livia, the Temple of Romulus, and Santa Maria Antiqua.

You’ll need to check the website to see if they’re open. Sometimes they close abruptly for restoration.

Pro Tips: Allow plenty of time to find the site and go through security. You can take pictures without a flash. But the lighting is pretty terrible.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to the House of Augustus. You. may find these other Rome travel guides useful:

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2 thoughts on “Guide To The House Of Augustus On Palatine Hill”

  1. I have been trying to find a link to make reservations for House of Augustus an House of Livia for a couple of weeks. I noted this on the House of Livia page on today. “Opening days
    Site temporarily closed”. And oddly, on the page for the House of Augustus there is a note near the bottom which reads, “It is possible to enter the House of Livia by purchasing the Full Experience Ticket (with Arena or Underground of the Colosseum).” And still no link to reserve a time for House of Augustus but I will try their phone number tomorrow. It’s all quite confusing.

    • Yeah it’s super confusing when I look at it now. I wanted to visit next month too … Let mw know if you have any luck via phone.


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