Sixth century home unearthed in Rome

Archaeologists in Rome have unearthed a unique home that sheds new light on the ancient city 2,500 years ago.

Sixth century home unearthed in Rome
An ancient domus (not the one pictured) has been found in Rome, shedding new light on the city's early history. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

The surprise find was made at Palazzo Canevari on the Quirinal Hill, not far from the city's Termini station, a site which was previously believed to have hosted an ancient cemetery, or necropolis, Corriere Della Sera reported.

“It's an exceptional find,” Francesco Prosperetti, the archaeological superintendent of Rome told the newspaper.

“It's one of the most important in the last ten years because it rewrites the history of Rome during the period it was ruled by kings. Scholars were previously debating if the area had been a place of worship filled with temples or a cemetery.” 

The ruins are reportedly in exceptional condition and reveal a large ancient Roman home, or domus, measuring three-and-a-half by ten metres.

The dwelling features a rectangular floor plan, which was divided into two rooms and was probably accessed via a porch.

The home was built on a base of Roman tufa, a volcanic stone that is abundant in central Italy and which was used by ancient engineers to build all kinds of constructions, from homes to the Pantheon.

The dwelling once featured high wooden walls that were covered in clay plaster which were topped by a tile roof. The home would have been a plush crib for a wealthy member of the Roman elite.

This is not the first find to be made at Palazzo Canevari. Formerly the headquarters of the Italian Geological Institute, the building changed hands in 2003 and a series of archaeological surveys were conducted in the area. 

Excavations carried out around the property in 2013 turned up a huge temple built by Roman kings.

Both of the finds date back to the initial period of the city – but definite records of Rome in this era do not exist.

After the latest find archaeologists are hoping the soils of the Eternal city will continue to turn up treasures that can help shed more light on the origins of Rome.  

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‘Lost’ manuscript of pro-Nazi French author published 78 years later

A book by one of France's most celebrated and controversial literary figures arrives in bookstores this week, 78 years after the manuscript disappeared

'Lost' manuscript of pro-Nazi French author published 78 years later

It is a rare thing when the story of a book’s publication is even more mysterious than the plot of the novel itself.

But that might be said of Guerre (War) by one of France’s most celebrated and controversial literary figures, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, which arrives in bookstores on Thursday, some 78 years after its manuscript disappeared.

Celine’s reputation has somehow survived the fact that he was one of France’s most eager collaborators with the Nazis.

Already a superstar thanks to his debut novel Journey to the End of the Night (1932), Celine became one of the most ardent anti-Semitic propagandists even before France’s occupation.

In June 1944, with the Allies advancing on Paris, the writer abandoned a pile of his manuscripts in his Montmartre apartment.

Celine feared rough treatment from authorities in liberated France, having spent the war carousing with the Gestapo, and giving up Jews and foreigners to the Nazi regime and publishing racist pamphlets about Jewish world conspiracies.

For decades, no one knew what happened to his papers, and he accused resistance fighters of burning them. But at some point in the 2000s, they ended up with retired journalist Jean-Pierre Thibaudat, who passed them – completely out of the blue – to Celine’s heirs last summer.

‘A miracle’
Despite the author’s history, reviews of the 150-page novel, published by Gallimard, have been unanimous in their praise.

“The end of a mystery, the discovery of a great text,” writes Le Point; a “miracle,” says Le Monde; “breathtaking,” gushes Journal du Dimanche.

Gallimard has yet to say whether the novel will be translated.

Like much of Celine’s work, Guerre is deeply autobiographical, recounting his experiences during World War I.

It opens with 20-year-old Brigadier Ferdinand finding himself miraculously alive after waking up on a Belgian battlefield, follows his treatment and hasty departure for England – all based on Celine’s real experiences.

His time across the Channel is the subject of another newly discovered novel, Londres (London), to be published this autumn.

If French reviewers seem reluctant to focus on Celine’s rampant World War II anti-Semitism, it is partly because his early writings (Guerre is thought to date from 1934) show little sign of it.

Journey to the End of the Night was a hit among progressives for its anti-war message, as well as a raw, slang-filled style that stuck two fingers up at bourgeois sensibilities.

Celine’s attitude to the Jews only revealed itself in 1937 with the publication of a pamphlet, Trifles for a Massacre, which set him on a new path of racial hatred and conspiracy-mongering.

He never back-tracked. After the war, he launched a campaign of Holocaust-denial and sought to muddy the waters around his own war-time exploits – allowing him to worm his way back into France without repercussions.

‘Divine surprise’
Many in the French literary scene seem keen to separate early and late Celine.

“These manuscripts come at the right time – they are a divine surprise – for Celine to become a writer again: the one who matters, from 1932 to 1936,” literary historian Philippe Roussin told AFP.

Other critics say the early Celine was just hiding his true feelings.

They highlight a quote that may explain the gap between his progressive novels and reactionary feelings: “Knowing what the reader wants, following fashions like a shopgirl, is the job of any writer who is very financially constrained,” Celine wrote to a friend.

Despite his descent into Nazism, he was one of the great chroniclers of the trauma of World War I and the malaise of the inter-war years.

An exhibition about the discovery of the manuscripts opens on Thursday at the Gallimard Gallery and includes the original, hand-written sheets of Guerre.

They end with a line that is typical of Celine: “I caught the war in my head. It is locked in my head.”

In the final years before his death in 1961, Celine endlessly bemoaned the loss of his manuscripts.

The exhibition has a quote from him on the wall: “They burned them, almost three manuscripts, the pest-purging vigilantes!”

This was one occasion – not the only one – where he was proved wrong.