As I’m tucked up in bed today with a cold, I’ve been wandering around Rome with the help of Google Earth. There are plenty of views of Rome’s major sights including the Colosseum, the Forum and the Palatine Hill but there’s so much more to see of Rome’s ancient past in other ruins around the city.
9. The Temple of Portunus
Just around the corner from the Circus Maximus (which is possibly the least inspiring of all Rome’s ruins) is the Temple of Portunus. Portunus was the god of locks, keys and livestock. Owing to the temple’s position in the Forum Boarium, known for its cattle markets, the Romans believed Portunus would oversee the sales of livestock.
8. The Temple of Hercules Victor
The Temple of Hercules Victor is a stone’s throw away from the Temple of Portunus in the former Forum Boarium. The circular temple is sometimes referred to as the Temple of Vesta as it was initially wrongly identified by antiquarians. The temple dates from C2nd BCE but has been used almost constantly ever since, even converted into a church in C12th.
7. The Pantheon
Possibly rivalling the Colosseum as the most tourist abound site in Rome, the Pantheon is undoubtedly beautiful if not overcrowded. The Pantheon was built by the Emperor Augustus’ close friend Marcus Agrippa, and his name is still visible above the temple. The building, which now houses a catholic church, was originally used as a temple to worship all the Olympian gods.
6. The Appian Way
The Appian Way once stretched over 300km from the centre of Rome to Brindisi on the coast. Sadly, there’s little left of the actual Roman road but around 15km remains in the Parco Regionale dell’Appia Antica and it’s possible to walk or cycle along it. There’s plenty to see along the way including the various tombs of ancient Rome’s rich and powerful. Tombs were not permitted to be built within city walls so families could gain prominence by building monuments, boasting of their achievements, along main roads outside of the city boundaries.
5. The Circus of Maxentius
When you’re the emperor of most of the known world, what else have you got to do but build your own personal racetrack? Well, apparently tack a villa and a mausoleum on too. Or that’s what the Emperor Maxentius did in C4th CE. The racetrack is far better preserved than the Circus Maximus and can be seen if you’re visiting the Appian Way (see above).
4. The Theatre of Marcellus
The Theatre of Marcellus is my favourite building in Rome. It was constructed during the reign of Augustus in honour of his nephew and heir Marcellus in C1st BCE. Sadly, Marcellus died before construction was completed aged just 21.
The building looks like a miniature Colosseum but incredibly is used as a home as the theatre was converted into a palace and once owned by the powerful Orsini family. The property, which boasts fresco decorated staterooms, a ballroom, a library and three bedrooms, went up for sale in 2012 for a mere $26 million.
3. Domus Aurea
Nero’s Golden House was one of the ancient world’s most extravagant building projects. The villa was built after the fire of Rome in 64 CE and included extravagant frescos and sculptures. Unfortunately, Nero was largely disliked by his successors and the palace was stripped and almost destroyed. Today it’s still possible to see the remains of the frescos and the impressive shell of the villa including its famed octagonal room.
2. The Markets of Trajan
The markets were built under the emperor Trajan in the 2nd century CE. They formed an integral part of Trajan’s forum and are the largest complex of ruins in Rome. The markets were effectively a vast shopping centre (or mall, if you’re reading this from the other side of the pond) but also housed administrative offices for Trajan’s regime. The buildings, which include beautiful marble floors and vaulted ceilings, now house the Museo dei Fori Imperiali.
1. The Baths of Caracalla
The Baths of Caracalla are one of the few examples of thermae (vast bathing complexes) which have survived to this day. The baths were built in the 3rd century CE by the emperor Caracalla and included a series of different bathing suites. Typically of thermae, the baths also included offices, libraries and shops. Located close to the Appian Way, the baths dominate the skyline and any visitor will be over awed with the scale and grandeur of the ruins.
If you’re planning on visiting Rome for a few days, check out my travel itinerary for 3 Days in Ancient Rome. It’s available on Unanchor.com and Amazon.