Roman Emperor's Luxurious Childhood Home Found?

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August 12, 2009—Rich with marble and mosaics, a vast, newfound ruin near Rome is likely the 2,000-year-old birthplace of Emperor Vespasian, who commissioned the Colosseum, archaeologists say.

© 2009 National Geographic (AP)

Unedited Transcript

Archaeologists in Italy have unearthed a sprawling country villa they believe to be the birthplace of Vespasian, the Roman emperor who ordered the beginning of the Colosseums construction during his reign.

The 2,000-year-old ruins were found about 80 miles northeast of Rome, near Cittareale.

SOUNDBITE (Italian) Filippo Coarelli, Archaeologist, University of Perugia: "This year's excavation brought to light rooms of great importance, now visible, like those rooms featuring mosaic or opus sectile floors - using marble slabs, made of valuable marble coming from all over the Roman empire."

The 150,000-square-foot complex was at the center of an ancient village called Falacrine, Vespasian's hometown.

Other archaeologists have expressed skepticism about this discovery, citing the lack of solid evidence that Vespasian lived here.

But Coarelli says even though there are no inscriptions to attribute it for certain, the villa's location and luxury make it likely it was Vespasian's birthplace.

SOUNDBITE (Italian) Filippo Coarelli, Archaeologist, University of Perugia: "Let's say that we are pretty confident that this is the villa where Vespasian was born - also given the fact that there are no other possible (hypothesis)"

The four-year excavation, which also turned up other ruins, including a necropolis burial ground, was carried out by a group of Italian and British archaeologists.

SOUNDBITE (English) Helen Patterson, Archaeologist, British School at Rome: "Right in that area of the lake of Nero, which was for his private dwelling place, Vespasian built the Colosseum which is the most famous monument in Rome, and one of the most famous monuments in the world."

Vespasian, who was born in the year 9 AD, brought stability to the Roman empire following turmoil under the extravagant Emperor Nero and a civil war among his successors.

While emperor, and using riches plundered from Jerusalem and proceeds from increased taxes, he launched a major public works program and started building the Colosseum - the most ambitious and best-preserved of his projects.

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