Emperor Hadrian is believed to have built “the Athenaeum,” as it was known at the time; it was a 900-seat complex created to promote arts and culture.
On Wednesday archeologists unveiled the arts center which was found during excavations for a new subway line to run through the Italian capital.
“Hadrian’s auditorium is the biggest find in Rome since the Forum was uncovered in the 1920s,” said Rossella Rea, an archeologist working on the project.
The found center which is now due to open to the public, is situated next to a taxi rank and squeezed between a baroque church and the Vittoriano, which is also nicknamed the Typewriter by locals.
The complex was only unearthed while excavation were being held to build a new underground railway line which will cross the heart of Rome.
“We don’t have funds for these kind of digs so this has come to light thanks to the new line,” explained Rea.
According to The Guardian, “archaeologists are keeping a careful eye on what gets dug up have proved to be a mixed blessing for railway engineers, who have had to scrap plans for two stations in the heart of the centre of Rome when it was discovered their exits to the surface cut straight through Roman remains.”
With the discovery of the ancient art center, there’re talks appeared that the new underground line would probably lose its last stop in the centre and being forced to run into the heart of Rome from the suburbs and straight out the other side without stopping. However, Rea suggests that the station and the ruins could coexist.
“I believe we can run one of the exits from the station along the original corridor of the complex where Romans entered the halls,” she said.
The found complex reminds once again about Hadrian’s love of poetry – the emperor wrote his own verse in Latin and Greek – and his perfect taste for bold architecture – by his order was built an 11-metre-high (36ft) arched ceiling once towered over the poets in the central hall.
Today the excavated space is riddled with pits dug for fires, demonstrating how after several centuries of celebrating the arts, the halls fell into disrepair with the collapse of the Roman empire and were used as a site for smelting ingots.
At the centre of the main hall a massive, nine-by-five-metre chunk of the monumental roof is placed which was damaged by an earthquake in 848 after standing for seven centuries.
After the earthquake, the halls were gradually covered over until a hospital was built on top five centuries ago dug down for cellar space.
“We found pots lobbed down a well after the patients using them died,” said Rea. “We could date them because the designs on the glaze were the same we see on implements in Caravaggio paintings.”
The found piece of architecture in the Italy’s capital is believed to be the most important Roman discovery in 80 years.