Rome’s Sunken Secrets
Underwater Pompeii is a fitting nickname for Baiae, a site in the same volcanic region of coastal Campania, only it wasn’t vanquished by ash (like nearby Herculaneum) but swallowed by rising sea levels due to great geological activity, which is now naturally being reversed. Its bay opposite Positano became the favorite playground of imperial Rome’s super-rich, who built spectacular villa complexes there, with private fish tanks, marinas, baths, even cutting edge architecture like an ‘oculus’-lighted dome long before the pantheon. Its king of debauchery was tyrannical emperor Nero, who probably murdered his aunt Domitia for her major villa, like his domineering mother Agrippina (who survived a sabotaged vessel), and executed secret throne rival Piso who decided last-moment against killing Nero in his own, even grander villa. The staggering costs enabled stunning art and luxury, like a ‘nymphaeum’ (artificial pleasure cave) and first rate Greek paintings and sculptures.