Archaeologists have made an incredible discovery: The remains of a palace that belonged to Rome's last royal family before the rebellion that created the Republic. But what rebels did to destroy this symbol of monarchy ironically preserved it.
Researchers at the dig believe that the palace was destroyed in the Roman revolt of 510 B.C., which many consider to be the first step toward founding the Roman Republic. Rebels tore off its elaborately-decorated roof, and filled the entire structure with rubble. Ultimately, this rubble kept the structure of the building intact and how archaeologists have the highest intact walls (6.56 feet) from this period in Roman history to study.
The palace probably belonged to Etruscan prince Sextus Tarquinius, son of Tarquinius Superbus, the last king of Rome. According to Discovery News:
The ongoing excavation has so far unearthed three, disconnected rooms which most likely opened onto a porticoed area.
Under the building's exceptionally well-preserved floor slabs, eight round cells contained the remains of five stillborn babies.
"We hope to unearth the rest of the residence this spring. In particular, we are looking to piece together the richly decorated roof," [archaeologist Marco] Fabbri said.
A terracotta fragment of the roof has already been found. It features the image of the Minotaur, an emblem of the Tarquins.
"It's a strong piece of evidence to support the hypothesis that the edifice was built for the Tarquin family," Fabbri said.
Indeed, the archaeologists do not rule out the hypothesis that the building was home to generations of Tarquins, and believe its last occupant was Sextus Tarquinius.
According to Roman histories written several hundred years after the events that destroyed this palace, Sextus Tarquinius was a particularly vicious prince, who according to legend raped his sister-in-law. This act turned out to be his last bad public relations move, and he was murdered by the townspeople. Discovery News concludes:
According to Nicola Terrenato, professor of classical archaeology at the University of Michigan, there is no doubt that the ruins belonged to the cultural context of the late, archaic king-cum-tyrants in central Italy.
"Even if the precise attribution was not 100 percent correct, this would not detract much from the scholarly value of this wonderful discovery," Terrenato, who currently heads another Gabii archaeological project, told Discovery News.
"Gabii's archaeological potential is enormous. It is one of the largest cities in Latium, and it is completely unencumbered by later buildings. When one thinks that what has been excavated yet is far less than 10 percent of the city, it is clear that many more surprises are in store," Terrenato said.
via Discovery News