One of the main ruins of Ancient Rome, Palatine Hill is without a doubt a must if you are visiting Rome. It is considered the birthplace of the city and the site of the first settlements in the region.
Often overlooked in the midst of so many sights, don’t miss the chance to visit the incredible ruins of Palatine Hill.
Palatine Hill: The Cradle of the City of Rome
- 1 Palatine Hill: The Cradle of the City of Rome
History of Palatine Hill
The history of Palatine Hill begins in the 10th century BC. When the region began to receive the first settlements. According to the myth of the creation of Rome, it was on that hill that the cave that lived the wolf that saved and nursed Romulus and Remus, the founders of the city, was.
Nowadays, the location of the cave, nicknamed Lupercal, is unknown. However, recent excavations suggest that it may be located under the ruins of the House of Lívia.
According to the legend, Romulus and Remus decided to found the city of Rome, but they did not agree on where it should be. The brothers then split into two different groups in nearby regions.
Romulus demarked his area, but not obeying the rules, his brother, Remus, invaded the demarked area, which caused Romulus to revolt and kills his own brother, taking his brother’s area for himself and becoming the first king and Rome.
The Hill has always had historical and commercial value for the Romans, so during the republican period, between 509 and 27 B.C., emperors and aristocrats made this hill the place for their luxurious villages. Including Augustus, the first emperor of Rome who bought the home of Speaker Hortencio, located right next to the hut of Romulus.
With the acquisition of the neighboring houses, Augusto transformed the house into a real Palace. Today it is one of the main tourist attractions of Palatine Hill.
Attached to the House of Augustus, is the house of his wife, known as the House of Lívia. After him, other emperors took up residence in the neighborhood.
The practice of building palaces on Palatine Hill has become so common, that the word palace itself derives from the Italian word Palatino.
What to see at Palatine Hill in Rome
Bothe the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum are famous for the amount of ruins in these two sites, however, there are far fewer ruins on Palatine Hill than on the Roman Forum, for example. Since the beginning, this has always been a more residential area.
At Palatine Hill, you will find more palaces and homes of important figures in Roman history. Therefore, you will notice that the ruins are larger, and more sparse, among themselves.
As it is a hill, from there you can also have a great view of the Roman Forum, Circus Maximus and other important points in the city of Rome.
Palatine Hill is located 40 meters above the Roman Forum, and this is where you can take that very traditional photo of the Roman Forum seen from above, you know?
Visiting Palatine Hill gives you a great view not only of the ruins located there but also those of the Roman Forum, you get a better idea of the size and layout of the ruins.
On the other side of Palatine Hill, it is also possible to see the Circus Maximus, where the famous chariot races of Ancient Rome were played. The photo below shows the Emperors’ view of the Circus Maximus from their houses.
Although Romulus was, until then, only part of Roman mythology, archaeological excavations that were started by the emperor Augustus himself found artifacts from the Iron Age and ancestral huts, dating from approximately 8 BC, coincidentally it is the estimated year of the founding of Rome by Romulus, according to the myth. Thus confirming the theory that the city of Rome originated there on Palatine Hill.
In addition to huts and artifacts, I also found part of a wall, which may (or may not) be the one, which according to the legend Romulus built to delimit his city.
Nowadays it is possible to visit the discovered huts, located next to the House of Augustus.
House of Augustus
Rome’s first emperor, Augustus, is believed to have been born right here on Palatine Hill. So, when he finally became emperor, he decided to buy the home of the speaker Hortencio, who was next to Romulus’ hut, later he ended up acquiring the neighboring houses and expanding the residence, transforming it into a palace.
Other buildings, such as House of Livia and Apollo’s temple, are believed to be part of the House of Augustus complex
This was the first imperial palace built on Palatine Hill, and one of the best decorated. The House of Augustus is a great example of the rich architecture of ancient Rome, the house has surprising frescoes, which despite the age, still preserve the details and vibrant colors.
Painted walls as in the House of Augustus are difficult to find. The images were painted with a technique that gave depth to the art, leaving the environment with the appearance of being even greater.
This is the only example of this style of art that can be seen in Rome. Another place where you can admire these artistic techniques is in the houses of Pompeii.
House of Livia
Livia was the second wife of Augustus and the first empress of Rome. She owned her own house, which was next to her husband’s house.
You can see that the construction of the House of Livia is a little more modest than the House of Augustus, however, it leaves something to be desired in the art. The decorated walls are very well preserved and follow the same artistic line as the home of Livia’s husband. This, too, is of all the ruins of Palatine Hill, the best preserved.
Farnese Garden and Domus Tiberiana
Considered one of the first botanical gardens in Europe, the Farnese Garden was built on the ruins of the Palace of Tiberius. The garden was designed in the mid-16th century by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, who acquired the ruins of the old Palace.
The Palace of Tiberius, known to the Romans as Domus Tiberiana, was the largest palace built on Palatine Hill. Nowadays, it is considered one of the most beautiful places on Palatine Hill, since, besides the green of the garden, you have a beautiful view of the city of Rome.
Better known among the Romans as the Temple of the Magna Mater (The Great Mother), it was the first and largest temple built dedicated to this deity.
The temple was built to house a black stone (symbolizing the goddess), the meteoric stone was brought to Rome in 204 BC from Pessinus in Asia Minor.
This palace was built for Emperor Domitian to be his private residence and court. The palace was built on top of the ruins of Nero’s palace, which was destroyed in the fire of 64.
The building, which follows the slope of Palatine Hill, is huge and has two floors. From his Palace, Domitian had a privileged view of the Circus Maximus, which can still be admired today.
This is a bit of a controversial ruin since one is not quite sure what role he played.
It is believed that the Domitian Hippodrome or Domitian Stadium, as it is also known, was used as a stadium for walking or chariot racing, due to its characteristic Roman circus shape, such as the Circus Maximus.
Others think that this building was used only as a garden.
The small museum located on Palatine Hill displays archaeological finds discovered on the mount itself. Among the artifacts are sculptures, mosaics, frescoes and other objects from the glory days of Palatine Hill.
The museum covers the history of the place from its origins to the imperial period and helps to tell the history of the city of Rome.
Palatine Hill Basic Info
Opening hours: Open every day from 8:30 am until one hour before sunset. Remember that Palatine Hill is closed on January 1st and December 25th.
Entrance to Monte Palatino: The entrance to Palatine Hill is on Via di San Gregorio. And to get out, you need to go down to the Roman Forum, one of the exits is next to the Temple of Venus and Rome, and the other next to the Arch of Settimo Severo. This is one of the reasons why I recommend starting your visit to Palatine Hill, going to the Roman Forum and only then visiting the Colosseum.
How to get there: There are several ways to get to Palatine Hill. In my opinion, the most practical option is by metro, via line B, just get off at Coliseu station, which is right in front of the Colosseum and next to Palatine Hill. Another option is by bus, the lines that pass near Palatine Hill are 60, 75, 84, 85, 87, 117, 175, 186, 271, 571, 810, 850.
Price: The ticket price purchased on the spot is 12 € for Adults, 7.50 € for citizens of the European Union between 18 and 24 years old and admission is free for citizens of the European Union under 17 and over 65 years. Recalling that this same ticket is valid for Palatine Hill, Colosseum and Roman Forum.