Palatine Hill, Rome - Where It All Began

The Palatine Hill is the heart and origin of the Eternal City. It is located between the Colosseum and the Capitoline Hill. According to the famous legend a she-wolf found and nursed Romulus and Remus here and the two brothers consequently founded the great city of Rome. Though the year of foundation of Rome is considered to be 753 BC, people lived on this hill much earlier - archaeologists say the first settlements belong to 3000 BC.

For many years during the Great Roman Empire this hill was inhabited only by consuls, senators, Roman elite of all kinds, orators and poets. The Palatine Hill was a special place for the wealthy and mighty of the Roman Empire. Let’s find out how and why it happened.

History Behind the Palatine Hill

The tradition of building his own palace came from Augustus (27 - 14BC), who was born on the Palatine Hill and created the first emperor’s residence. Going in his footsteps the most powerful emperors such as Caligula, Tiberius, Nero and many others added their own palaces on the Palatine Hill or enlarged the existing ones. 

The word “palatio” in Latin meant “a building standing on the Palatine Hill” and this word became the prototype of words in different languages: “palace” in English, “paleis” in French, “палата” in Russian and many others. 

Today the main part of the hill is occupied by the Palace of Domitian (Emperor Domitian 96 - 51AD), massive in size and taking a formidable part of its territory. During the times of the Emperor Domitian it used to be a three-part structure meant as a multi-functional residence. Each part of the palace had a different name Domus Flavian, Domus Augustana and the Stadium (a garden). One part was for business (D. Flavian), another - for private matters and family (D. Augustana) and the last one the Stadium contained a big oval garden in the shape of a Roman Circus (entertainment section), which wasn’t in fact anything but a garden, because it was not big enough neither for chariots, nor as a hippodrome for horse-racing. This garden was very elaborate, full of fountains and statues, many of which can still be seen in the collection of the Palatine museum. The Domitian Palace had many rooms, such as larariums (a room for gods), exedras, tricliniums (banquet hall), a peristyle (a garden surrounded by colonnades)  and others, the purpose of which we don’t always know. 

The highest level of the palace overlooks the Circus Maximus. The latter once was the biggest and most impressive venue in the whole world, used for public games and horse-racing contests. Consequently the Domitian Palace was used as a residence by consequent Roman emperors till the end of the Roman Empire in the V century.

Quite for a long time the hill was closed for visitors due to works held by archaeologists. These works are still being held and they don’t seem to end very soon. In fact, what we see today on the Palatine Hill is the smallest part as compared to what is still concealed. 

Though the past pompous Roman luxury has gone and turned into ruins, the Palatine Hill is by all means worth visiting as a place of origin of the Roman civilization. Wandering around this place you will see many incredibly picturesque sights, have a look from the hill at the Circus Maximus and imagine what life used to be like back in those days two thousands years ago. 

All of the constructions on the Palatine Hill remind you of the past grandeur. The Domitian palace in some places is fully gone into the ground with its roof becoming the surface, on which tourist walk today. Standing there you can see not only the Circus Maximus stadium, but also the inside garden, dug out by archaeologists. Observing this profound depth gives you a feeling of eternity and timelessness of the Palatine Hill.

Apart from the Domitian Complex there are also many other sights such as the residence of Augustus and three famous “huts” from the VII century. 

How To Enter Palatine Hill

In order to get on the territory of the Palatine Hill, you need to come to the ticket office in Via di San Gregorio, 300m to the west of the Colosseum. 

About the Tickets

A combined ticket that is good for the Colosseum, Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill can be bought at many different points around the city, including the ticket offices at the entrance of the Palatine Hill. 

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