In the Colle Oppio park near the Colosseum in Rome there are some ruins of the Terme di Traiano (Baths of Trajan), which were constructed for the emperor by Apollodoro in 110 AD. Near the southern entrance to the park, across from the parking lot, the Cisterna delle Sette Sale is visible. This is the cistern where the water for the baths was collected.
Cisterna delle Sette Sale Rome
Address, opening hours and admission
Address: Via delle Terme di Traiano, 5b – Rome (tel. +39 060608). Opening hours: The site can only be visited as part of a guided tour, which requires quite some planning in advance. If you want to book for the months of January, February and March you can do this from September 14th onwards, for April, May and June you can start booking on December 14th, etc. Admission: 4 Euros (concessions 3 Euros). The visits are organized by so-called Associazioni Culturali. Their fee is not included in the entrance price.
History and description
Several statues were excavated at the site, making it probable that the Baths must have been lavishly decorated.
Nowadays there is not much left of the original grandiose structure, except for a number of rather majestic exedras. An exedra is a semi-circular structure of Greek origin. In the heyday of the Roman Empire it was often used in order to hold discussions and talk philosophy. The original meaning of the word is “outside chair”.
The big reservoir (“cisterna“) that was used to hold water can still be viewed. From this cistern the water was transported to the nine great halls the Terme consisted of.
The name Cisterna delle Sette Sale stems from the 18th century when only 7 of the 9 halls had been unearthed. For some reason the name was never changed to Cisterna delle Nove Sale.
At the moment it is not possible to walk on the terrace on top of the monument.
Cisterna delle Sette Sale – Via delle Terme di Traiano 5b, Rome
It is a pity that it is not possible anymore to view Rome‘s Circus Maximus in all its splendor, since it is probably the biggest venue of all time with a width of 140 meters and a length of around 600 meters. The Circus Maximus is best known from the chariot races in the famous film “Ben Hur”.
Circus Maximus Rome
Address, Opening Hours and Entrance fee
The Circo Massimo is located along the Via del Circo Massimo – 00186 Roma (Italy). Metro: Circo Massimo (line B). Rione: Ripa. Bus: 81, 628 (stop: Circo Massimo-Roseto Comunale), 75, 81, 118, 160, 673, N2, N10 (stop: Circo Massimo), 628, L07 (stop: Cerchi-Porta Capena), 81, 118, 160, 628, 715 (stop: Cerchi-Bocca della Verità). Admission and opening hours: Most of the Circus Maximus is freely accessible.
Of what was once the Circus Maximus (which means “biggest circus” in Latin, and in Italian is called Circo Massimo) is unfortunately very little left.
The Circus Maximus is located in a 600m. long and 150m. wide valley (the Vallis Murcia) between the Palatine and the Aventine hills. It had 250,000 to 300,000 seats, which was then about a quarter of the entire population of Rome. It was of course also possible to see the games in the Circus Maximus from the hills themselves.
Circus Maximus is very important for the history of Rome. During a festival at the circus, the rape (which at the time meant abduction) of the Sabine women happened, which put an end to the scarcity of females in the population of Rome.
The valley where the Circus is located, which used to be called the Valle Murcia, had already been developed in the times of the Tarquinians. The originally marshy area had been drained, not extremely effectively at the time because of obvious lack of knowledge and material, but in the following centuries more and more work was done and monumental works were constructed.
In 196 B.C. the Arch of Stertinio was erected and in subsequent centuries especially the emperors Julius Caesar and Augustus added and restored several aspects of the Circus Maximus, which also used to be adorned with the obelisk that can now be admired on the Piazza del Popolo.
Over the years the Circus was destroyed a number of times by fires to be completely restored in the times of the emperors Domitian and Traianus. The – few – ruins that are still visible nowadays are those of monuments constructed in that period.
Future emperors would add even more to the Circus, as testified by the brickwork and by several decorative additions like a second, gigantic, obelisk, tranported from Egypt to Rome by Constantius II. This obelisk was later moved to the Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano.
On one side of the Circus part of the twelve carceres can still be seen. It is here that the races started. The higher part in the middle of the track was the spina, on top of which statues of eggs and dolphins were placed. Every time a lap was completed one of the statues was taken away. The spina must have been quite impressive, since apart from the aforementioned eggs and dolphins there were columns, groups of statues, altars, temples and of course the two obelisks to be admired.
The Circus Maximus hosted its last games in 549 and then gradually was abandoned and later turned into agricultural terrain.
Since 2017 it is possible to visit the small part of the Circus Maximus that has been excavated.
Visitors will have access to the galleries that used to lead to the steps of the cavea. Remains of ancient latrines can be seen in these 100m long galleries. Senators watched from the ground floor of the cavea, the plebs on the upper floor.
Along the external basalt road you can see a large drinking trough and you can visit the various tabernae around the Circus. These included inns, grocery stores, laundries and warehouses, but also brothels and moneychangers. These latter were needed for the betting on the horseraces.
The bases of the Arch of Titus are visible in the central part of the hemicycle. The front colums were at least 10 meters high. Parts of the large inscription with bronze letters of a dedication by the Senate and the Roman People to the emperor were also found here.
The numerous stone fragments have also been partly arranged to furnish the open space. Elements from the ancient building (steps, frames, capitals, shop thresholds, etc.) can be seen on one side of the hemicycle, while on the other side a series of columns in coloured marble are visible.
The visit includes the inside of the 12th century Torre della Moletta.
The Baths of Caracalla in Rome are among the most impressive monuments in the Eternal City. The largely well-preserved ruins of these ancient Roman baths are in some spots almost 40 meters high. During the summer months the Baths are used for opera performances.
Baths of Caracalla Rome
Address, opening hours and admission
Address: Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 52 (Rione: Celio). Tel. +39 0639967700. Metro: Circo Massimo (line B). Opening hours: From 9 a.m. to 1 hour before sunset. Mondays from 09.00 to 13.00. Price: 8 Euro; 2 Euro for EU residents between 18 and 25 years old; free for young people below age 18 and disabled people. The Appia Antica Card, the Archeologia Card and the Roma Pass are valid at the Terme di Caracalla. On the first Sunday of the month, a visit to the monument is free of charge. Italian name: Terme di Caracalla.
There were a number of public baths in Roman times, but these were the most impressive, with walls as high as 37 meters. The total area is about 10 hectares.
Caracalla started construction of the Baths bearing his name in the year 212. Its inauguration took place in 216.
The word Terme itself was a corruption of the Greek word for “hot springs”, Thèrmai.
The Terme di Caracalla functioned until the year 537, when the aqueducts leading water to the Baths were destroyed by the Goths. Even before that the baths had already been restored several times.
The Baths were then abandoned and became a sort of mine that was plundered by anybody in need of building materials. Despite this ransacking , the Baths of Caracalla are still the best example of thermal baths in the times of the Roman Empire.
The Baths of Caracalla consisted of a large central building, surrounded by a number of rooms. Four gates gave access to the complex.
The Terme could accommodate more than 1,500 people. Visitors could take a Turkish bath and relax in the calidarium (a room with hot water tanks), the tepidarium (lukewarm water) and the frigidarium (cold water).
There was an outdoor swimming pool called the natatio and also a kind of gym and a library in the complex.
Wealthier Romans could also pay to get massages.
Excavations took place in the 16th and 17th centuries. A good deal of the statues found during the excavations ended up in the private collection of the Farnese family. The two tubs that adorn Piazza Farnese were also originally from the thermal baths, while other important works of art are now on display in the Vatican Museums and the Napels National Archaeological Museum.
Underneath the complex was a network of corridors, where slaves ensured that the 50 furnaces that kept the water of the tepidarium and calidarium warm did not go out. These corridors were 6 meters wide and 6 meters high and there was even a roundabout to ensure that underground traffic ran smoothly.
The complex’s sewer system was underneath this network.
In 1912 a temple dedicated to the pagan God Mithras, who was worshipped in the east, was discovered underneath the Terme. Here young men were initiated by baptizing them in the blood of a bull slaughtered on the spot during the ceremony.
The temple consists of five rooms that communicate with the upper floor via a staircase. The large rectangular main room is closed off by cross vaults. The mosaic floor is white with black stripes. During the ceremonies, the faithful sat on two high benches against the side walls.
On one of the walls there is a fresco representing the God Mithra, together with a figure with a torch holding a sun disk in his left hand. In the middle of the room there is a rectangular slot, where the bull was probably sacrificed according to the ritual of the cult of Mithra.
This room gives access to another room with a stone bench and a small basin with a central staircase. In the Mithreum parts of an altar have been found, together with a group of statues depicting Mithra slaughtering a bull.
Women were not allowed to enter this Mithraeum, which was the largest in the entire Roman Empire.
During the summer months, the Terme di Caracalla are transformed into a temporary seat of the Teatro dell’Opera. (The first time this happened was during the fascist period, on the initiative of none other than Mussolini).
Baths of Caracalla – Viale delle Terme di Caracalla 52, Rome
The Tarpeian Rock (Rupe Tarpea) is the rock wall on the south side of the Capitol Hill in Rome. It faces the Roman Forum and it is from this steep 25 meter high cliff that criminals during the Roman Republic were thrown down to die. The luxury fashion house Gucci is financing a restoration of the monument, which is supposed to be completed in 2021.
Tarpeian Rock Rome
It is thought that Mons Tarpeius was the original name of the Capitol Hill and that Tarpeia was the divinity protecting it.
According to the popular legend, however, Tarpeia was a Vestal Virgin who betrayed the Romans by opening the gates of the citadel to the Sabines. In exchange she was going to get the precious bracelets the Sabines wore on their left arms. Everything went according to plan, except that the intruders had never intended to give her her reward. Instead, they killed Tarpeia by submerging her under their heavy shields.
Condemned criminals in the days of the Roman Republic were normally killed by strangling them in the Tullianum. Being thrown off the rock was only for the worst traitors and was considered extra shameful.
Latest news Tarpeian Rock Rome
In June 2019 the fashion brand Gucci pledges 1,6 million Euros for the restoration of the Tarpeian Rock. The works will include the installation of a new lighting system. The path around the cliff will be cleared and the gardens around it will also be restored. The reason for the restoration is that in August 2018 pieces of rock and earth fell down of the cliff. Work is supposed to finish in 2021.
The Basilica of Maxentius (Basilica di Massenzio) is one of the largest monuments in the Roman Forum in Rome. This former courthouse was the model for the construction of the first churches in Rome, which thus came to be called basilica‘s.
The Emperor Maxentius started construction of the basilica between 306 and 312. Emperor Constantine would eventually complete the construction, which is why it is often called the Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius.
A fragment of a 2nd century map and excavations show that there used to be a number of buildings here called the Horri Piperataria, where pepper and other spices were stored.
Although the building was part of the Roman Forum, its entrance was on the side of the current Via dei Fori Imperiali.
The Basilica of Maxentius served as the public court of Rome. When churches began to be built, its architecture was used as an example, which is why the first churches were called “basilica”. Only later would the word acquire its current meaning.
The ground plan of the Basilica of Maxentius differs from that of older basilicas like the Basilica Ulpia. These had a central ship with round extensions at the ends.
Originally, the basilica consisted of an enormous auditorium that was divided into three naves by marble columns. Itcould be accessed from the atrium on the west side via five large corridors. The dimensions were 100 by 65 meters. The central nave had a length of 80 meters and was 35 meters tall. The side wings consisted of three rooms connected to the atrium and to each other.
Only the north side of the basilica is still standing. The central part of the basilica ended in an apse. In front of this apse there were two columns and statues could be seen in the niches.
The south side used to have a large entrance, which was built by Constantine and consisted of a portico with four enormous columns. This portico was preceded by a staircase that connected the Via Sacra with the Velia (a hill that was largely excavated by Mussolini during construction of the Via dei Fori Imperiali).
Only one of the eight columns supporting the central nave remains. It was removed in 1613 by order of Pope Paul V and placed in front of the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica, where it can still be seen.
Colossus of Constantine
Emperor Constantine had a huge, seated statue of himself placed in the eastern apse of the central nave. The arms, legs and head were made of white marble, while the torso was made of wood with a gilded bronze layer. The remains of this Colossus of Constantine, the head and one of the feet, can be seen in the Capitoline Museums in the courtyard of the Palazzo dei Conservatori. It was more than 12 meters tall and the head alone measured 2.60 meters.
The Pantheon is one of Rome’s Top 10 tourist attractions and one of the city’s best preserved monuments. Although it started its existence as a pagan temple dedicated to all the Gods it is at present a Catholic church and officially called Santa Maria ad Martyres. It has survived virtually unaltered since it was erected in the 2nd century AD. The structure of its domed interior is unique in Rome.
Address, Opening Hours and Admission
Opening hours: 8.30 AM till 7.30PM (Sundays: 9AM till 6PM; holidays: 9AM till 1PM). Closed: January 1, May, December 25. Admission: Free.
The Pantheon is located in the heart of Rome and its facade faces the south side of the Piazza della Rotonda.
The name signifies “Temple of all the Gods” and it was meant as Hadrian‘s gift to all the people of the Roman Empire.
The very first version of the Pantheon was constructed by Agrippa, in the year 27 BC. Agrippa was both the advisor and son-in-law of the Emperor Augustus. At the time it was only meant to be a temple dedicated to Mars and Venus, the protective Gods of the family Julius. At the time the entrance was on the southern side.
There is not much left of the original temple and Hadrian had to have it rebuilt (by the architekt Apollodorus of Damascus) almost from scratch between the years 118 and 125 AD. The famous cupola stems from this period.
Hadrian was rather humble for an Emperor and, not being in the habit of having his name inscribed on the buildings he commissioned, he had Agrippa‘s put on the church’s facade.
The Emperor Severius ordered some restorations in the beginning of the 3rd century, but after that the Pantheon was more or less left to itself.
In 608 the Byzantine Emperor Foca donated the building to pope Bonifacius IV, who transformed it into the Santa Maria ad Marytres church.
In 1870 the Pantheon became the official shrine of the Italian kingdom and Vittorio Emanuele II, Umberto I and Margherita di Savoia were buried in the monument. Another VIP having been laid to rest in the Pantheon is the artist Raphael.
Highlights and Tourist Attractions Pantheon
Thanks to inscriptions on the bricks and walls of the Pantheon it has been relatively easy to understand who was responsible for which restaurations and modifications of the building.
Monarchist volunteers protect the tombs of the kings Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I (and the latter’s wife), who are buried in the Pantheon.
The artist Raphael is also buried in the monument, as are Annibale Caracci and Baldassare Peruzzi.
The bas-reliefs on the tympan portray the war between the Gods and the Giants.
Melozzo da Forli painted the fresco L’Annunziazione in the first chapel on the right.
The House of Romulus (Casa Romuli) is located on the western slope of the Palatine Hill in Rome. It is one of a number of huts that were discovered here in 1946. Holes along its circumference indicate where the walls and the doors were. Apart from its foundations not much is left of the original hut.
According to legend Romulus founded Rome in the year 753 BC. He is thought to have live in a hut on the south-western slope of the hill. In 1946 several huts dating back to this period were excavated in this area. The period can be deduced by comparing the finds with funerary urns found in the Roman Forum.
There is not much more left of these huts than the foundations, which were dug out in the tuff stone ground. A small ditch prevented rainwater from entering the houses.
The biggest of the huts is oval in shape and measures approximately 4 by 3,50 meters. Six round holes can be seen at the sides of the hut. Together with a hole in its middle these contained the poles supporting the walls and roof.
Four more holes along one of the short sides indicate where the door used to be.
Other holes outside its circumference probably held poles supporting some kind of baldachin.
The Palatino (“Palatine Hill”) is one of the famous seven hills of Rome. It was the first one that was inhabited. According to legend Romulus founded Rome on its slopes, in the year 753 BC. Some years ago the Lupercale, the cave where Remus and Romulus are thought to have been fed by the she-wolf, was discovered.
It is very likely that there were already people living on the Palatine Hill before the year 753 BC. It was a good spot for a settlement. The hill looked out over the Tiber Island, which was the easiest place to cross the river.
In the heyday of the Roman Empire, Emperors chose their dwellings on the hill. It was also here that the earliest temples were built. When other rich Romans started building here, commerce and bureaucracy moved to the Roman Forum.
It was the Emperor Augustus who had upped the prestige of the Palatine Hill, by settling there and by building a.o. the Temple of Apollo. His successors Tiberius and Caligula constructed ever bigger dwellings.
The biggest palace of all was built by Domitianus, however. The ruins of this building still dominate the skyline of the hill.
Subsequent emperors continued the building spree. Trajan had spectator seats constructed in order to better be able to follow the games in the adjacent Circus Maximus, while Septimius Severus commissioned the construction of a huge bathhouse.
After the 9th century AD the Palatine Hill lost its importance and gradually became more and more dilapidated. Its palaces and other buildings were dismantled and plundered and the stone and marble were used for new constructions. Several Roman churches and convents have been built using material taken from the Palatine Hill.
The Palatino comprises around 2 square km and takes up the area between the Circus Maximus and the Roman Forum. In the old days it was reached via the Clivus Palatinus, a steep road that started at the Forum Romanum.
Of the time of the kings and of the Roman Republic, when the Palatine Hill was populated by the wealthier citizens of Rome, there are but few traces left.
Palatine Hill Highlights
House of Romulus
The House of Romulus (Casa Romuli) is located on the western slope of the Palatine Hill. It is one of a number of huts that were discovered here in 1946. Holes along its circumference indicate where the walls and the doors were.
The Marble Foot (Pie’ di Marmo) is an enormous sculpture of the left foot of the goddess Isis. It can be seen in the Via di Santo Stefano del Cacco in Rome. Since the foot has a length of about 1,20 m (4 feet), the statue is thought to have been about 9 m (26 feet) tall.
Marble Foot Rome
Opening hours and admission
The Pie’ di Marmo can be seen from outside.
History and description
The gigantic marble foot was part of a sculpture that used to adorn the Iseo Campense, a temple dedicate to the Egyptian Gods Isis and Serapis. It is the left foot and it is clad in a Greek sandal called crepida. After Alexander the Great had conquered Egypt, the cult of these Gods had become very popular in the Roman world.
In the middle ages the foot was placed at the point where the Via del Pie’ de Marmo meets the Piazza del Collegio Romano. It was placed in its present position in 1878, in occasion of the funeral of King Victor Emanuel II. If it had stayed in its original position the funeral procession would not have been able to pass on its way to the Pantheon.
In the same street there used to be an archway consisting of three arches giving access to the Iseo Campense, but this was destroyed between 1585 and 1597.
The street name and the name of the Santo Stefano al Cacco Church also refer to the temple and more precisely, to a statue of an Egyptian monkey (macaco) in the area. This statue was moved to the Capitoline Hill in 1562 and later, in 1838, to the Egyptian section of the Vatican Museums. Other remains from the temple are a number of obelisks, an allegorical statue of the river Nile and another one of the river Tiber. The first one is now on display in the Vatican‘s Chiaramonti Museum, the second one in the Louvre.
Address and public transport
The monument can be seen in the Via di Santo Stefano del Cacco. The nearest bus stop is Plebiscito (30, 46, 62, 64, 70, 81, 87, 130F, 190F, 492, 628, 916, 916F, N5, N6, N7, N15, N20).
The Villa dei Quintili (“Villa of the Quintilii”) is an ancient Roman ruin between the Via Appia Antica and the Via Appia Nuova in Rome. It was built in the 2nd century AD and was so impressive that the then emperor had the owners murdered and went to live there himself.
Villa dei Quintili Rome
Opening hours and admission
Opening hours: From 09.00 till one hour before sunset. Closed: Mondays, January 1, December 15. Admission: 5 Euros. EU citizens 18 to 25: 2,50 Euros. Younger than 18: Free. The Villa dei Quintili is free for everybody on the first sunday of the month. The ticket is valid for 1 day and includes the Cecilia Metella Mausoleum. The Archaeologia Card and the Roma Pass are valid. Part of the villa, but not everything, is wheelchair accessible.
History and description
The Villa dei Quintili had 52 richly decorated rooms. The owners were two brothers, Sesto Quintilio Condiano en Sesto Quintilio Valerio Massimo, who had important positions during the reign of Marcus Aurelius.
The Emperor Commodus liked the complex so much that he had the brothers thrown out and even killed, so tha the could go and live there himself (182 AD). The Villa stayed in imperial hands until the end of the 3rd century. During the middle ages most of the villa came to be covered with layers of earth. It was not until the 18th century that the ruins were excavated. The excavations unearthed numerous statues that can now be seen in musems all over the world. The most famous one is the Aphrodite Braschi.
During excavations in the 19th century lead pipes were found. Because the name Quintili was inscribed on some of these one knows who its original owners were.
Highlights Villa dei Quintili
There is an aquarium near the present entrance of the villa along the Via Appia Nuova.
Across the villa, on the Via Appia Antica side, the ruins of a monumental nymphaeum can be seen.
A vast garden, part of which was used as a horse racing track leads to the living quarters. This main building consists of an enormous courtyard around which the rooms were laid out. These were decorated with marble and even had central heating.
The living area consisted of bedrooms, thermal areas, servant quarters and a number of crypt-porticoes.
The most important parts of the villa, including the calidarium and frigidarium, are located on the Via Appia Nuova side. The frigidarium consists of a big central room, with cold water tubs on the sides.
Other rooms are much smaller, but are equipped with baths and heating.
Address and public transport
The address of the Villa dei Quintili is Via Appia Nuova 1092, 00178 – Rome (tel. +39 067129121). District: Zona Capanelle. Bus: 654, 663, 664, C11, N26.