When most of us think of Rome, we think of the pictures we have been shown of the Colosseum and the ruins that are scattered amongst the city. We realize they are old, colossal, and extravagant structures that are in the midst of decay, but do we realize just how old? And, do we realize just how important these structures were to this thriving civilization? Before venturing on a tour of the ancient city, it is important to know (in order to appreciate) just how old and essential these structures were.
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Through battle and conquest, the Roman Empire expanded to become one of the largest empires in the ancient world. Amazingly, some of the grand structures that were built over 2,000 years ago (which were the Emperors homes, their places of entertainment, and their places of business) are still standing today. Here are some of the main sites to visit if you are interested in exploring Ancient Rome.
This huge amphitheater, which held up to 55,000 people, was built by Emperor Vespasian in 80 AD and was the scene for thousands of gory gladiator battles and animal fights. The massive Colosseum and nearby Arch of Constantine (built in 315 AD) are spectacular sights that depict the grandeur of ancient Rome.
Rome’s Pantheon, the temple of the gods, was build between 118 and 125 AD. Once place of pagan worship, it was converted to church by early Christians. Its spectacular dome and open sky light make this temple unique and stunning.
The Roman Forum
The ancient Roman Forum is a huge complex of ruined temples, basilicas, and arches. It was the center of ancient Rome in many ways; ceremonial, legal, and social.
The Capitoline Hill
Above the Roman Forum, this hill was Rome’s symbolic center and held the Temple of Jupiter. Today, like in ancient times, the hill has the best view of Rome’s center.
Today, Piazza Navona is lined with cafes and displays beautiful Baroque fountains. However, it was originally build as a stadium in the first century for athletic contests and chariot races.
The Palatine Hill
Ancient Roman emperors, aristocrats and senators lived on the Palatine Hill starting in the first century BC.
Via Appia Antica and Catacombs
Via Appia Antica was once the major road to ancient Rome and was constructed in 312 BC. Today, this road is a 10-mile long archaeological park, lined with ruins of tombs and monuments. The catacombs are also open for public tours where you can see the underground burial places of early Christians.
Baths of Caracalla
At the base of the Aventine Hill are the ruins of these baths, used from the second to sixth centuries AD. As bathing was a major social event for Romans, this bath held up to 1,600 bathers. Along with the baths, there were also gymnasiums, galleries, gardens and shops.
Baths of Diocletian
Once spanning across 32 acres, these were the largest baths in ancient Rome. Most of the structures are in ruins, however what is left is displayed in the National Roman Museum.
Check out some great photos of some of the above mentioned locations and more at: