Series – When In Rome
Welcome to Palatine Hill, one of Rome’s famed Seven Hills, and the site of today’s adventures. Palatine Hill is one of the most ancient parts of Rome, and is a veritable treasure trove of ancient history. In fact, Palatine Hill’s history is so old, it pre-dates the history of Rome itself!
Did you know that the word “palace” originated from Palatine? From the Roman Forum ruins at its base, to an ancient Iron Age settlement atop, the influences and importance Palatine Hill has played across centuries of Roman history remains apparent still today. A visit to Rome just isn’t complete without spending an afternoon exploring this ancient site of massive historical significance. So let’s get going!
On The Road of Ancient Roman History
This experience begins the very moment one steps onto the ancient black basalt stone road leading up to Palatine Hill. Look closely! You might just see tracks of Roman Empire wagon wheels beneath your feet, worn into the stone after centuries of heading to market here.
Stop and ponder this thought for a moment. You are literally standing on the very same road Roman Empire citizens also once stood so many centuries ago. Who knows who might have also walked upon this ancient walkway? You might very well be standing on the same stones as Augustus Caesar once stood!
Pass beneath the massive Arch of Titus, built in the 1st Century AD to commemorate Titus’ victories, including the Siege of Jerusalem. Stop to examine the intricacies carved into the arch, depicting scenes of Titus’ sieges. Then continue on into the ancient Roman world of Palatine Hill.
Inside The Ruins of The Roman Forum
At the base of Palatine Hill sits the Empire’s Roman Forum. It’s hard to believe that before this land became the hub of ancient Rome’s political and social scene, it was actually a marsh!
It was only after draining the marsh did the land transform into ancient Rome’s central marketplace, business district and civic center, playing a key role in nearly all aspect of the lives of the Roman Empire citizens.
This is where rulers and aristocrats once went about the business of the Roman Empire. It’s where they built temples and palaces, and where they held public debates. This is where citizens came to shop and socialize with neighbors, and to listen to political dissertations.
Walk through the Roman Forum, past where Marc Antony once spoke, and where Julius Caesar’s funeral procession passed. Stand where Roman Empire politicians once debated, and citizens once strolled.
Though a guided tour is not required, it comes highly recommended to get the most out of this experience. The ruins around the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill date as far back as the 6th Century BC, with continued enhancement and expansion until 6000 AD.
Without intricate knowledge it can be a challenge to distinguish the different phases that spanned the years, or to fully understand the different uses over the centuries and the histories that accompany the various buildings and plazas.
Many buildings were modified over the centuries. Consider this building, which was initially a temple. Centuries later, it was a church. Though how the citizens of Rome utilized the interior changed, the exterior remained much like it did during the days of the Roman Empire.
All around Palatine Hill is evidence of the once all-powerful Roman Empire. The ravages of time is evident from the displaced intricately carved pedestals to the broken remains of a giant statue with just one toe left intact. Palatine Hill changed with the passing of time, evolving much like Rome itself evolved through the centuries.
Snapshots of Roman Life Atop Palatine Hill
Rome’s earliest inhabitants occupied Palatine Hill centuries before the dawn of the Roman Empire. Long before the Roman ruling class claimed Palatine Hill for themselves, an Iron Age settlement of simple stone buildings already existed atop the hill.
Peer into the depths of this ancient Iron Age settlement. These structures are thought to have been constructed during the reign of Rome’s first king, Romulus, and the site is aptly named the Hut of Romulus.
Palatine Hill ultimately became the fashionable place to live for Rome’s rulers and elite citizens. No wonder, with its expansive views of Rome spread out as far as the eye could see! Much like today’s modern world, ancient Romans who could afford it, sought the best views from which to create their homes.
Augustus Caesar and his wife Livia built their palaces atop Palatine Hill, as did Cicero and Marc Antony, and other emperors of the great Roman Empire. At its peak, Palatine Hill was a veritable congestion of imperial palaces, nearly every inch of ground build upon.
Questions remain though. Consider the once grand Stadium of Domitian’s Palace. Was this a public or private stadium? Or was it a grand imperial garden for a wealthy elite family who lived atop the hill? The purpose of Domitian’s Stadium is still not clear today.
Stand next to the 2,000 year old homes of Emperor Augustus Caesar and his wife, Empress Livia. Only recently opened to limited public viewings, they are not to be missed! You’ll be astounded as to how the ancient frescoes weathered the test of time. See more about our experience here at A Rare Glimpse Inside Emperor Augustus Caesar’s Private Residence.
At it’s peak, Palatine Hill was a jumble of Rome’s ruling elite’s palaces, temples and public buildings. These grand and glorious ancient structures eventually succumbed to the passing of the centuries. The Middle Ages saw churches, convents and ornate botanical gardens built upon crumbling Roman Empire ruins. Only in recent centuries has the once glorious past of Palatine Hill been unearthed for the modern world to see.
Roman Forum & Palatine Hill Tour Tips
This is one ancient site worth spending the money for a guided tour. Signage is minimal, and without a knowledgeable guide leading the way, this is a challenging labyrinth of ruins to interpret. We chose Walks of Italy for our guided tour, and were very happy we did! Read more about Walks of Italy at 5 Favorite Reasons to Tour Rome With Walks of Italy.
Plan for several hours to fully explore the ancient sites of Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. Include time for both a guided tour as well as time to explore this incredible site on your own. There is just so much to see and experience here!
Have You Been to Palatine Hill, Rome?
Our afternoon exploring Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum was yet another highlight of our five fabulous days in Rome. Our only regret? That we didn’t have more time to explore here!
How about you? Have you spent an afternoon exploring the ruins of Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum? Did you enjoy it as much as we did? Do share!
Want to learn more about our adventures around Rome? Check out my other posts here!
- 5 Fabulous Days in Rome – Family Adventures in the Eternal City
- Inside the Roman Colosseum – Up Close with Ancient Architecture
- A Rare Glimpse Inside Emperor Augustus Caesar’s Private Residence
- Biking The Ancient Appian Way – A Family Adventure
- Vatican City in One Day – 7 Top Tips to Maximize Your Time
All images by C.Biederman.