Nero’s Sunken City: Baiae, Rome’s version of Las Vegas, on Secrets of the Dead

Baiae was a city where Romans could play out their hedonistic fantasies. Pic: PBS
Baiae was a city where Rome’s rich and powerful could play out their hedonistic fantasies. Pic: PBS

PBS’s Secrets of the Dead: Nero’s Sunken City tonight follows archaeologists as they map the ruins of Baiae — what was ancient Rome’s version of Las Vegas.

The incredible underwater site lies in the Bay of Naples and was a playground for the great and the good of Rome between the first and the third centuries AD.

Secrets of the Dead follows a team of historians, archaeologists and scientists from around the world as they map the ruins in a bid to find out exactly what went on there and why it vanished under the sea.

Half of Baiae’s ruins are underwater and are equivalent to those at nearby Pompeii, on the other side of the bay, which draw millions of visitors each year.

Under the sea are evidence of a rich people’s playground, with flamboyantly mosaiced walls, extravagant marble floors, and lines and lines of luxury villas with beautiful spas and marble statues.

It’s thought these huge villas played host to parties, and were owned by a who’s who of Roman greats from Caesar to Cicero and Mark Anthony to Nero.

Nero in particular used Baiae as a playground, where he could play out his hedonistic fantasies.

Professor Kevin Dicus, who has been excavating Roman ruins in the area for 10 years, said: “To Nero, Baiae represented everything he wished Rome was…

“At Baiae, Nero could engage in his hedonistic lifestyle. He could take to the baths, enjoy the hot springs, eat fresh oysters, have boat parties, get drunk, have sex, all of this away from the drudgery of daily politics of Rome.”

But the city also had a dark side full of scandals and murderous plots hatched…

Secrets of the Dead: Nero’s Sunken City airs tonight at 10/9c on PBS.

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