Palatine Hill

Palatine Hill

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The Palatine Hill (Palatino) is considered to be the place where Rome was born. One of Rome’s seven hills, the Palatine Hill is closely linked with the city’s history and houses some of its most ancient and important sites.

Legend says that the twins Romulus and Remus were taken to Palatine Hill by a she-wolf who raised them. Here they founded a village which would become Rome.

In a dispute over who was the rightful leader of the new settlement, Romulus eventually killed his brother at the Palatine Hill. Romulus thus became the namesake of Rome. Indeed, the Palatine Hill is where the earliest huts of Rome were found, supposedly built under the remit of Romulus.

As it developed, the Palatine Hill became one of the most affluent areas in Ancient Rome and was already a coveted address by the first century BC during the Republic. This continued under the Roman Empire, when the Palatine Hill was home to Rome’s most prominent figures. It was also where the first Emperor of the Roman Empire, Augustus was born in 63 BC.

Today, the Palatine Hill offers some of Rome’s best ancient sites and is a must-see, especially for history enthusiasts. Amongst the buildings excavated at the Palatine Hill are the House of Augustus, the House of Livia (Augustus’s wife), the home of several of Rome’s emperors – the Domus Augustana – and the Palace of Septimius Severus. There is also a large stadium.

Roman Forum

The Roman Forum, also known by its Latin name Forum Romanum (Italian: Foro Romano), is a rectangular forum (plaza) surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient government buildings at the center of the city of Rome. Citizens of the ancient city referred to this space, originally a marketplace, as the Forum Magnum, or simply the Forum.

Roman Forum
Forum Romanum (Latin)
Surviving structuresTabularium, Gemonian stairs, Tarpeian Rock, Temple of Saturn, Temple of Vespasian and Titus, Arch of Septimius Severus, Curia Julia, Rostra, Basilica Aemilia, Forum Main Square, Basilica Iulia, Temple of Caesar, Regia, Temple of Castor and Pollux, Temple of Vesta
Imperial comitiumCuria Julia, Rostra Augusti, Umbilicus Urbi, Milliarium Aureum, Lapis Niger, Basilica of Maxentius

For centuries the Forum was the center of day-to-day life in Rome: the site of triumphal processions and elections the venue for public speeches, criminal trials, and gladiatorial matches and the nucleus of commercial affairs. Here statues and monuments commemorated the city's great men. The teeming heart of ancient Rome, it has been called the most celebrated meeting place in the world, and in all history. [1] Located in the small valley between the Palatine and Capitoline Hills, the Forum today is a sprawling ruin of architectural fragments and intermittent archaeological excavations attracting 4.5 million or more sightseers yearly. [2]

Many of the oldest and most important structures of the ancient city were located on or near the Forum. The Roman Kingdom's earliest shrines and temples were located on the southeastern edge. These included the ancient former royal residence, the Regia (8th century BC), and the Temple of Vesta (7th century BC), as well as the surrounding complex of the Vestal Virgins, all of which were rebuilt after the rise of imperial Rome.

Other archaic shrines to the northwest, such as the Umbilicus Urbis and the Vulcanal (Shrine of Vulcan), developed into the Republic's formal Comitium (assembly area). This is where the Senate—as well as Republican government itself—began. The Senate House, government offices, tribunals, temples, memorials and statues gradually cluttered the area.

Over time the archaic Comitium was replaced by the larger adjacent Forum and the focus of judicial activity moved to the new Basilica Aemilia (179 BC). Some 130 years later, Julius Caesar built the Basilica Julia, along with the new Curia Julia, refocusing both the judicial offices and the Senate itself. This new Forum, in what proved to be its final form, then served as a revitalized city square where the people of Rome could gather for commercial, political, judicial and religious pursuits in ever greater numbers.

Eventually much economic and judicial business would transfer away from the Forum Romanum to the larger and more extravagant structures (Trajan's Forum and the Basilica Ulpia) to the north. The reign of Constantine the Great saw the construction of the last major expansion of the Forum complex—the Basilica of Maxentius (312 AD). This returned the political center to the Forum until the fall of the Western Roman Empire almost two centuries later.

History of Palatine Hill

As Rome’s most central hill, the Palatine sits between Circo Massimo and the Roman Forum (which you can enjoy great views of from above). This convenient location, and its splendid views, made Palatine Hill “the place to live” in ancient Rome. Soon, Rome’s most powerful and wealthy residents built their homes here. Even Emperor Augustus called Palatine Hill home for his entire lifetime.

View of the Roman Forum

As time went on, the Palatine was eventually completely taken over by Rome’s emperors, each outdoing his predecessor by building increasingly lavish palaces. But Palatine Hill wouldn’t be the centre of affluence and privilege forever.

After Rome’s decline, Palatine Hill became neglected and its former glories fell in to ruin. In the Middle Ages, churches and castles were built over the remains. Changes continued during the Renaissance as members of wealthy families established gardens on the hill.

Much of Palatine Hill as it appears today remains covered by the ruins of Emperor Domitian’s palace. The excavated ruins and intriguing mythology about Palatine Hill make it one of the most interesting places to visit in Rome.

Palatine Hill

The Palatine Hill is the centremost of the Seven Hills of Rome and is one of the most ancient parts of the city. It stands 40 metres above the Roman Forum, looking down upon it on one side, and upon the Circus Maximus on the other. From the time of Augustus Imperial palaces were built here and hence it became the etymological origin of the word palace and its cognates in other languages (Italian palazzo, French palais, German Palast).

According to Roman mythology, the Palatine Hill was the location of the cave, known as the Lupercal, where Romulus and Remus were found by the she-wolf Lupa that kept them alive. Another legend occuring on the Palatine is Hercules' defeat of Cacus after the monster had stolen some cattle. Hercules struck Cacus with his characteristic club so hard that it formed a cleft on the southeast corner of the hill, where later a staircase bearing the name of Cacus was constructed.

Rome has its origins on the Palatine. Excavations show that people have lived in the area since the 10th century BC. The Palatine Hill was also the site of the ancient festival of the Lupercalia. Many affluent Romans of the Republican period (c.509 BC-44 BC) had their residences there.

From the start of the Empire (27 BC) Augustus built his palace there and the hill gradually became the exclusive domain of emperors the ruins of the palaces of at least Augustus (27 BC-14 AD), Tiberius (14-37 AD) and Domitian (81-96 AD) can still be seen. Augustus also built a temple to Apollo here. The great fire of 64 AD destroyed Nero's palace, but he replaced it by 69 AD with the even larger Domus Aurea over which was built Domitian's Palace


The Palatine Hill is an archaeological site open to the public. The Palace of Domitian which dominates the site and looks out over the Circus Maximus was rebuilt largely during the reign of Domitian over earlier buildings of Nero.

The House of 'Livia', the wife of Augustus, is conventially attributed to her based only on the generic name on a clay pipe and circumstantial factors such as proximity to the House of Augustus. The building is located near the Temple of Magna Mater at the western end of the hill, on a lower terrace from the temple. It is notable for its beautiful frescoes.

The House of Tiberius is located next to the Temple of Cybele, on the platform built by Nero and in the current Farnese Gardens.

There are also remains of other temples and palaces on the Palatine Hill.

The Ruins

The Palatine Hills has many ruins from ancient palaces. For instance, near the Circus Maximus you will find remains of the Palace of Septimius Severus and the ruins of his Baths, who was the Roman emperor between 193 and 211 A.D.

On the north from the Palace of Septimius Severus is the stadium, which was built together with the Palace of Domitian. Over three centuries, the Palace, built in 81 A.D., was considered as the Rome’s largest palace. There were two wings: a private one (the Domus Augustana) and a public one (the Domus Flavia). Today, you can find remains of both of them on the Palatine Hill.

Archaeologists discovered remains of an early settlement that date back to the times of the first king of Rome, Romulus. The site is known as the Hut of Romulus


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Palatinate, German Pfalz, in German history, the lands of the count palatine, a title held by a leading secular prince of the Holy Roman Empire. Geographically, the Palatinate was divided between two small territorial clusters: the Rhenish, or Lower, Palatinate and the Upper Palatinate. The Rhenish Palatinate included lands on both sides of the middle Rhine River between its Main and Neckar tributaries. Its capital until the 18th century was Heidelberg. The Upper Palatinate was located in northern Bavaria, on both sides of the Naab River as it flows south toward the Danube, and extended eastward to the Bohemian forest. The boundaries of the Palatinate varied with the political and dynastic fortunes of the counts palatine.

In early medieval Germany, counts palatine served as stewards of royal territories in the absence of the Holy Roman emperors. In the 12th century the lands of the counts palatine of Lotharingia (Lorraine) were formed into the separate territory of the (Rhenish) Palatinate. In 1214 the Holy Roman emperor Frederick II granted these lands to Louis I, duke of Bavaria, of the house of Wittelsbach. This ancient Bavarian dynasty, in one or another of its branches, was to rule the Palatinate through its subsequent history. In 1329, in an internal dynastic settlement, the North Mark of Bavaria was detached from the Bavarian Wittelsbachs and given to the branch of the family that also held the Rhenish territories. The North Mark thereafter was known as the Upper Palatinate. In the 14th and 15th centuries the counts palatine brought firm rule and prosperity to their lands. They fought for the rights of the German princes against the universalist ambitions of popes and emperors. They won the right to participate in the election of the emperor, a right confirmed by the Golden Bull of 1356, which made the elector palatine the chief secular prince of the Holy Roman Empire.

The Palatinate remained Roman Catholic during the early Reformation but adopted Calvinism in the 1560s under Elector Frederick III. The Palatinate became the bulwark of the Protestant cause in Germany. Elector Frederick IV became the head of the Protestant military alliance known as the Protestant Union in 1608. His son Frederick V’s acceptance of the Bohemian crown in 1619 contributed to the beginning of the Thirty Years’ War, a war that proved disastrous to the Palatinate. Frederick V was driven from Bohemia in 1620 and, in 1623, was deprived of his German lands and electoral dignity, which were given to Bavaria. Catholic troops devastated the Rhenish Palatinate. The Peace of Westphalia (1648) restored the Rhenish lands, as well as a new electoral dignity, to Frederick’s son Charles Louis. The Upper Palatinate, however, remained with Bavaria thereafter.

During the War of the Grand Alliance (1689–97), the troops of the French monarch Louis XIV ravaged the Rhenish Palatinate, causing many Germans to emigrate. Many of the early German settlers of America (the Pennsylvania Germans, commonly called the Pennsylvania Dutch) were refugees from the Palatinate. During the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars the Palatinate’s lands on the west bank of the Rhine were incorporated into France, while its eastern lands were divided largely between neighbouring Baden and Hesse. After the defeat of Napoleon (1814–15), the Congress of Vienna gave the east-bank lands to Bavaria. These lands, together with some surrounding territories, again took the name of Palatinate in 1838. French troops temporarily occupied the Rhineland territories after Germany’s defeat in World War I.

After World War II, parts of the Rhenish territories were incorporated into the newly constituted federal Land (state) of Rheinland-Pfalz (Rhineland-Palatinate) in (then West) Germany. See Rhineland-Palatinate.

Nero’s Rome burns

The great fire of Rome breaks out and destroys much of the city on this day in the year 64. Despite the well-known stories, there is no evidence that the Roman emperor, Nero, either started the fire or played the fiddle while it burned. Still, he did use the disaster to further his political agenda.

The fire began in the slums of a district south of the legendary Palatine Hill. The area’s homes burned very quickly and the fire spread north, fueled by high winds. During the chaos of the fire, there were reports of heavy looting. The fire ended up raging out of control for nearly three days. Three of Rome’s 14 districts were completely wiped out only four were untouched by the tremendous conflagration. Hundreds of people died in the fire and many thousands were left homeless.

Although popular legend holds that Emperor Nero fiddled while the city burned, this account is wrong on several accounts. First, the fiddle did not even exist at the time. Instead, Nero was well known for his talent on the lyre he often composed his own music. More importantly, Nero was actually 35 miles away in Antium when the fire broke out. In fact, he let his palace be used as a shelter.

Legend has long blamed Nero for a couple of reasons. Nero did not like the aesthetics of the city and used the devastation of the fire in order to change much of it and institute new building codes throughout the city. Nero also used the fire to clamp down on the growing influence of Christians in Rome. He arrested, tortured and executed hundreds of Christians on the pretext that they had something to do with the fire.

Palatinus Mons

From Samuel Ball Platner, A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, rev. Thomas Ashby. Oxford: 1929, p. 374-380.

The centremost of the seven hills of Rome, an irregular quadrilateral in shape, and about 2 kilometres in circuit. Its highest point is 43 metres above the level of the Tiber, and 51.20 above sea-level and its area was about 25 acres. According to tradition, it was the first of the hills to be occupied by a settlement and some authorities think that ritual reasons had much to do with its selection. Pigorini believed that the Prisci Latini occupied it owing to its similarity in shape to that of the rectangular 'terremare' of the plain of the Po, from which they came, and also to the fact that it was surrounded by streams. He further favoured the derivation from palus (Perchè l' antica Roma è sorta sul Palatino, in Archivio Storico per la Sicilia Orientale, xv.). To others the natural advantages of its position seem sufficient.

It was a flat-topped hill with two distinct summits, the Palatium and Cermalus (the former name does not appear to have extended over the whole hill until the third century B.C. — see below — though in common parlance it may have done so earlier), protected by lofty cliffs far more formidable than they seem at present (v. Doliola for the discovery of republican buildings under the arch of Janus Quadrifrons, which show that the valley was originally much deeper than it now appears to be) and almost entirely surrounded by two marshy valleys traversed by winding streams, being connected only by the narrow ridge of the Velia (on the summit of which stands the arch of Titus) with the Oppius, an outlying part of the Esquiline. It was thus a position of great natural strength, and its neighbourhood to the river gave it the command of the crossing of the Tiber, probably a ford at or near the site of the pons Sublicius. This crossing was of great importance, for it was the only permanent one on the whole of the lower course of the river.

First settlements on Palatine Hill

When did the latins first settle on Palatine Hill? What does archaeology reveal?

I am fairly sure it is long before 753 BC and that Romolus is just a legend.

That leads to the 2nd question: Which is the first king of Rome, if any, to be considered a historical figure and not a mythological one?

The Imperator

When did the latins first settle on Palatine Hill? What does archaeology reveal?

I am fairly sure it is long before 753 BC and that Romolus is just a legend.

That leads to the 2nd question: Which is the first king of Rome, if any, to be considered a historical figure and not a mythological one?


When did the latins first settle on Palatine Hill? What does archaeology reveal?

I am fairly sure it is long before 753 BC and that Romolus is just a legend.

That leads to the 2nd question: Which is the first king of Rome, if any, to be considered a historical figure and not a mythological one?

I don't have the book handy (official guidebook for the Palatine Hill Museum) but I pulled-up a past post of mine.

And on the Palatine Hill (Romulus' village) human artifacts from the Middle Palaeolithic Age right up to a permanent settlement in the C13 BC.

These remains are post-holes, drainage channels and a hearth cut into the bedrock which are dated to the C9 & C8. The huts were destroyed in the late C7 and built-over.

A reed and stick hut was there and maintained as a holy place (Dionysius of Halicarnassos) in the Late C1 BC (and likely earlier). And I recall reading it was finally destroyed in 455 by the Vandals?

As far a Romulus goes *if* a leader did in fact start uniting these small seperate Iron-Age tribes (myth points to the tribe on the Aventine Hill 1st? Remus possibly just another tribal leader?) either by conquest or treaty he had to have a name?
I see no reason why his name in an oral legend couldn't have been passed down and then the myths were added like his royal birth (Vestal Virgin mother and the God Mars as his father), etc, etc.


The Fan of History

Wow! I had no idea it was as early as the 13th Century BC! Thanks, this was exactly what I needed.

I will go with Tarquin the Elder as the first historical person in Rome then.

The Fan of History

I don't have the book handy (official guidebook for the Palatine Hill Museum) but I pulled-up a past post of mine.

And on the Palatine Hill (Romulus' village) human artifacts from the Middle Palaeolithic Age right up to a permanent settlement in the C13 BC.


Wow! I had no idea it was as early as the 13th Century BC! Thanks, this was exactly what I needed.

I will go with Tarquin the Elder as the first historical person in Rome then.

I have the book, it's called 'The Palatine' and put-out by the 'Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma'.

"Hand made stone objects suggest the area was sparsely inhabited from the 'Middle Palaeolithic Age (100,000-35,000 years ago), through to the 'Upper Palaeolithic Age (35,000-10,000 years ago).

The existance of a permanent settlement on the Hill can be dated back to the 'Late Bronze Age' (13th Century BC and the first half of the 12th Century BC), whereas the main occupancy of the Palatine is documented to the beginning of the 'Iron Age' (900-830 BC: phase IIA of the Latium culture).

And the display cases in the Palatine Hill museum have the artifacts from those periods.


Wow! I had no idea it was as early as the 13th Century BC! Thanks, this was exactly what I needed.

I will go with Tarquin the Elder as the first historical person in Rome then.

The King couldn't live in the Roman Forum area until the marsh (malaria) was drained (open trench) and the land reclaimed.

The 'Oxford Archaeology Guide-Rome' "Excavations in depth have proved that there was certainly a building resembling a noble Etruscan-style residence on the site by the C7 BC: a courtyard with a pair of rooms preceded by a columned porch, decorated with painted terracotta plaques. Before the end of the C6 BC but had already been rebuilt at least three times, with a different layout each time."

This area has been re-excavated in the last few years with some more finds mostly the Regia/Royal Palace layout IIRC.
The head archaeologist was a huge publicity hound and claimed to have dated it too the 1st King's reign (Romulus' era but left open the King's actual name).
Bottomline It seems very likely to be the King's Palace of a King in the 600's and those who followed him.

This Rex bowl/cup was found there and displayed in a Rome museum (likely late 6C).

Capitoline Hill

The religiously important head hill, Capitoline (460 m long northeast to southwest, 180 m wide, 46 m above sea level high), is the smallest of the seven and was situated in Rome's heart (the forum) and the Campus Martius.

The Capitoline was located within the earliest city walls, the Servian Wall, in their northwestern section. It was like the Acropolis of Greece, serving as a citadel in the legendary period, with sheer cliffs on all sides, except the one that used to be attached to the Quirinal Hill. When Emperor Trajan built his forum he cut through the saddle connecting the two.

The Capitol hill was known as the Mons Tarpeius. It is from the Tarpeian Rock that some of Rome's villains were tossed to their deaths on the Tarpeian crags below. There was also an asylum Rome's founding king Romulus was said to have established in its valley.

The name of the hill comes from the legendary human skull (caput) found buried in it. It was the home to the temple of Iovis Optimi Maximi ("Jupiter Best and Greatest") that was built by the Etruscan kings of Rome. The assassins of Caesar locked themselves in the Temple of Capitoline Jupiter after the murder.

When the Gauls attacked Rome, the Capitoline did not fall because of geese who honked their warning. From then on, the sacred geese were honored and annually, the dogs who had failed in their job, were punished. The temple of Juno Moneta, possibly named moneta for the warning of the geese, is also on the Capitoline. This is where coins were minted, providing the etymology for the word "money".