Make your own free website on

Copyright © 2006 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Punta del Epitaffio

Excavation of the nymphaeum area revealed the existence of a spacious, dome-shaped chamber that covered a surface area of 18 meters by 9.5 meters. A semi-circular marble divan was found within the chamber foundations and wall abutments. There were also the remains of an elaborate fish pool. The divan and pool were described in writings by Pliny The Younger: "A banquet style marble divan follows the edge of a pool in which the water's level is regulated in such a way as to keep the basin always full yet never allowing it to overflow. Food appetizers and heavier dishes (for dining guests) were placed on the edge of the pool while lighter plates were floated in wooden trays carved in forms of gondolas and sea birds."

This description proved to be most accurate.
The single entrance to the chamber was through an arcuated opening that connected with the bay. This means that visitors could enter only either by boat or raft. The only light source was sunlight that filtered beneath the access archway through the blue water. Blue light beams bounced from the dome ceiling and white marble statues that graced the walls. The ceiling was finished in simulated rock and stuccoed with false stalactites to create the illusion of being inside a natural grotto, precisely that of the mythical cyclop Polifemus. At the inner end of the chamber, a large apse with a stage-like platform contained a group of marble figures that represented Ulysses approaching Polyfemus from the left offering wine. to his right, Ulysses' companion Baios holds a large wineskin for filling the bucket used as a drinking glass by the giant. Polifemus clutches the corpse of a Greek in his left hand.

This grotesque interior is attributed to Emperor Claudius who likened himself to Ulysses. The Ulysses marble group is a Roman copy of a Hellenistic original bronze relief in a scale of 1:1, with only minor variation from the original design. It is believed that this set was sculpted in A.D. 45, at the Pozzuoli marble art studio. It is also believed that most other marble artworks found submerged along the Bay of Pozzuoli were crafted at this same studio.

Ironically, it was the largest of the statues that was never located, that of Polifemus. The stone seat of the cyclop's figure was found intact, providing a fair estimate of the statue's size and scale. Only a few small fragments of the statue were found, including a lock of hair. The figure was so massive that it would be almost impossible not to find if it were anywhere in this area. Excavators believe that this statue was too large and heavy to have been taken in one piece, and was probably broken into smaller pieces and taken for use in smaller projects. This was a common practice in medieval times. It would be a miracle if the statue were ever found at all.

Submerged remains of the palace complex and surrounding structures lie in 3 to 15 meters of depth, extending up to 400 meters out to sea from the point. Sections of walls and other structural fragments still survive on the promontory just above the water. One corner of walls displayed a piece of well-preserved fresco up until only a few years ago. Its maroon and beige colors remain clear and vivid. The artwork is also clearly define but is only a small fragment of a larger fresco. Because of the position of the inner corner to this piece of fresco, the fragment can only be viewed directly from the sea below.

Directly beneath this rock point, in 6 meters of depth, lie remains of the nymphaeum with its luxurious pool. The pool foundation and surrounding embankments are still firm and intact. Niches that held the recovered statues of Claudius' family are clearly visible along wall foundation abutments.