Ultimate Roman Forum Map, Palatine Hill & Roman Forum Self Guided Tour

Complete Guide to 37 Attractions on Palatine Hill and The Roman Forum

Self Guided Tour of Palatine Hill and Forum Romanum Attractions

Palatine Hill and The Roman Forum

Walking through the roman forum buildings and palatine hill ruins takes us back to a time when this small piece of land was the center of the Greatest Empire known to man namely the Roman Empire that spanned over 1,200 years. The nobility lived on palatine hill and displayed the power of the Roman Empire in the Roman Forum. For over 12 centuries, the roman soldiers and their leaders controlled vast lands from 700 BC to 500AD. For centuries the roman forum was the center of their day to day life, the site of religious ceremonies, triumphant processions, gladiator games and their commercial and economic center. You may have heard the term “all roads lead to Rome” meaning all roads led to this area of land that started as a marshy burial ground in the 7th century BC and ended up after the fall of Rome as a cow pasture “Campo Vaccino” during the renaissance

In the 1,200 years since the start of the forum, the roman forum buildings have had name changes and function changes. The roman buildings have been destroyed in fires and riots, rebuilt, repurposed, dedicated and rededicated depending on who was out of favor at the time.  Each roman forum building and site has its own colorful history which I will explain as simply as I can as roman history can be very complex

General Information

On a macro scale, the Forum and hills surrounding it were divided along functional lines. The Capitoline Hill was the administrative office. The Palatine Hill had the residences of nobility while the Forum at the base of the Capitoline hill was the place of political functions and commerce. The Forum square was also divided along functional lines. On one side you see the dedications to deities via temples, monuments, statues, triumphal arches as well as meeting places for governing and justice. On the other side of the forum you see roman buildings used for commerce; buying, selling and trade including market stalls

After purchasing our roman forum tickets which included two day passes to the colosseum, palatine hill and the roman forum, we started our roman forum tour from the colosseum and headed down the “via sacra” to the Arch of Titus entrance to the Roman Forum. This was the processional route of many religious and military triumphal marches/ceremonies

As you walk down this route, the historic significance is overwhelming when you think about the number of roman soldiers, golden chariots, kings, senators, emperors and other roman citizens who walked these very same streets for over a millennium

Self Guide Tour Map Palatine Hill and Roman Forum

Use the Palatine Hill & Roman Forum map & this self guided tour to visit the ruins. There are over 25 popular attractions; you can also download the google map of the ruins and use it offline as your self guided tour. It’s a good idea to do some planning before visiting the ruins because if you put yourself at the mercy of the tour guide, you may miss the fun of wandering around at your own pace and discovering the various attractions. We used an official tour guide and afterwards realized how much he didn’t cover. It would have been far better to have our own agenda in advance with a map (below) and attractions guide to visit the ruins

Download Interactive Palatine Hill and

Roman Forum Map to use Online or Offline

roman forum palatine hill self guided walking tour

Download the Palatine Hill


Sacred Road (Via Sacra)

Via Sacra is the main street in Rome from the colosseum to the top of Capitoline Hill (Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus). It is also the triumphal processional street from the colosseum to the Roman forum ‘

Many triumphal parades and religious festivals had passed along this route for many centuries. After the Great Fire of Rome in 64AD (attributed to Nero), Emperor Nero paved and lined this route with grand columns and replaced the butcher shops with high end stores at the forum romanum. He also straightened the road, removing the fork that led from the entrance of the forum to the north. Interestingly enough Via Sacra was also used by the prostitutes who lined the street. They mixed in with the Romans who went about their daily lives on the via sacra whether to attend to business at the basilica Aemelia or to visit one of the many shops that lined the street

Roman Forum Building
Image credit fororomano.info

Arch of Titus (Arc de Titus)

The arch was built in 82AD by Emperor Dometian, to honor the Flavius family line, and to commemorate his older brother Titus and father Vespasian. Dometian was too young to take part in the military campaign, specifically referring to the victory related to the Siege of Jerusalem. One of the reliefs on the arch refer to this event and can be seen on the map that is associated with this self guided tour. Click on the Arch of Titus google map pin above to see the image of the relief.

The relief shows two key events from the battle: In one scene Romans are carrying the spoils of war including a menorah (a candelabrum used in Jewish worship) from Judea to Rome. In another scene you see the four horse chariot with the Emperor accompanied by deities and mystical figures in a triumphal march to Rome

Vespasian and his eldest son Titus were victorious over a revolt in the Roman province of Judea (Jerusalem). Many victories were celebrated with the building of a monument whether an arch or a column to remind the population of the triumphs of the Emperor

The arch is located at the base of Palatine Hill at a key location on the main triumphal processional route from the colosseum to the Forum Fomanum on the via Sacra

The inscription on the Arch refers to Titus and Vesparian as Divo Titus and Divo Vesparian. Divo meaning divine as they were deified after death. Whenever you see “Divo” on an inscription it means it was erected after death. The inscription is as follows:


Translated as “The Senate and People of Rome dedicate this to Divus Titus, son of Divus Vespasian, Vespasian Augustus”

Who built the Roman Colosseum

It was Emperor Vespasian who commissioned the Colosseum where Emperor Nero’s new place in the roman forum stood. His sons completed the Colosseum construction after Emperor Vespasian’s death. As a result the coliseum is also referred to as the Flavian Amphitheater, after the Flavian Dynasty to which Vespasian and his sons were part of

Octavian – First Emperor to be called Augustus – Emperor Augustus

Emperor Augustus (27 BCE – 14 BCE) was known as the greatest Roman Emperor. His birth name was Gaius Octavian and he was adopted by his great uncle Julius Caesar. The powerful Roman Senate bestowed the title of Augustus meaning “the illustrious one” and he was known as Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus. This did carry some resentment as Mark Anthony was recorded by Cicero as having said “You owe everything to your name”. Augustus was well liked and respected. He restored peace to the Roman empire and the economy, arts, and agriculture flourished under his rule.

Temple of Venus and Rome (Temple de Venus et de Rome)

What I am about to describe are the many changes that have occurred to the Temple of Venus and Rome and the many name changes it has had over the centuries

The Temple of Venus and Rome is located on the Velian Hill, one of the original of the seven hill settlements that eventually became part of ancient Rome. Refer to image on the interactive map; the interactive map is found by clicking on the map image above. During the time when Roman worshiped idols, the Temple was designed by Emperor Hadrianin in 121 AD and finished by his successor the very popular and well liked Emperor Antoninus Pius in 141AD. (of the Antoninus and Faustina Temple in the Roman forum).  Given the slope of the hill, the temple platform faced the colosseum and was 30 feet higher at the top of the hill

The Temple of Venus and Rome was ancient Rome’s biggest temple at 350 feet long and 150 feet wide, comprising of two main chambers where each chamber was dedicated to the goddess of Love and the Goddess of Rome. The temple was damaged in the first of many fires that ravaged Rome. After the fire in 307 AD, the temple was restored by the then Emperor Maxentrius

Emperor Constantine (ruled from 306 – 337AD) converted to Christianity and following his conversion signed the Edict of Milan in 313AD legalizing Christianity and allowing the freedom of worship. It also allowed Christians to build places of worship including St Peters Basilica. Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in 380 AD under Emperor Theodosius I. Many temples and pagan ritual sites were abandoned, including the Temple of Venus and Rome. Emperor Theodosius I also suppressed pagan worship in 390AD, which started the movement to either convert the pagan worshiping temples to churches or to have them stripped to build other churches and monuments throughout Italy

In 625 AD, under Pope Honorius, and with consent of Emperor Heraclius, the abandoned Temple of Venus and Rome was stripped of its bronze and marble to repair Old St Peters Basilica. The next major event to take place to the temple (temple site) was the earthquake in the 9th century (847AD). It damaged many buildings in the roman forum and virtually destroyed what was left of the temple

Santa Maria Nova (“New” Church)

The earthquake severely damaged the oldest church in the roman forum, the Santa Maria Antiqua. It was built in the 5th century on the north-west slope of Palatine Hill which was an ancient hill known as Velien.  Pope Leo IV ordered the building of the Santa Maria Nova Church (nova meaning new) on the site of the Temple of Venus and Rome

Santa Maria Nova Church, the “new” church was built to replace the Santa Maria Antiqua, as the place of worship. Once the Santa Maria Nova was built, the obligations and rights of the Santa Maria Antiqua was transferred to the Santa Maria Nova

In 1612, Santa Maria Nova Church underwent major restoration and was renamed Basilica di Santa Francesca Roman. It was rededicated to St Frances (1384-1440) who was born a noble woman. She dedicated her life to to helping the poor and was canonized in 1608. Her remans are still in the crypt in the church

Basilica of Maxentius (Basilique de Maxence et Constantin)

The site was the location of the Horrea Pipertataria warehouse which burned down in the fire of 283 AD. Horrea Pipertataria was built in the 2nd century to store grain, clothing, marble, olive oil and other food items. When Emperor Septimius Severus (Same person who built the Septimius arch in the Roman Forum), died in 211 AD he had stockpiled enough food in the warehouse to feed the 1 million citizens of Rome for 7 years

The construction of the Basilica on the site of the warehouse began in 308AD under Emperor Maxentius and was completed under Emperor Constantine in 313AD. Constantine completed the basilica after he defeated Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312AD. A painting by Raphael showing this moment in history is on dispaly in Raphael Room 1 Hall Of Constantine titled The Battle of Milvian Bridge on the south wall. The basilica was nearly complete when Constantine took over the building and design thereby making minor changes. The changes included re-positioning the entrance from facing the Temple of Venus and Rome to facing Palatine hill to the South. He also added another apse, and replace the colossal statue of Maxentius located in the western apse with his own head

The Basilica’s originally functioned as a courthouse, administration building, meeting hall and a place of business, in essence a roofed extension of the forum. Over time the design of the basilica was used in the building of churches and basilicas and became synonymous with places of worship. Emperor Constantine felt that the design of the basilica, shaped like a crucifix, would be the perfect design for Christian worship. Many churches all over the world today are designed in the same way ie: in the shape of a crucifix

The Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine speaks to the engineering ingenuity of the Romans taking aspects of designs from the roman baths and of typical roman basilicas. Engineers today marvel at the technology that allowed the massive 130 feet high barrel and cross vaults to stand unsupported using unenforced concrete. It is a colossal structure of 6500 square feet and 66ft high. Of the Corinthian columns of marble that were built only one of the eighth has survived 

Temple Of Divus Romulus  (Temple de Romulus)

Originally it was the site of the temple of Jupitor Stator or Temple of Penates, identified by its rotunda.  After the great fire in 306AD, Emperor Maxentius began a great rebuilding program in the roman forum. Maxentius and the Pagans were losing ground to the Christians which were estimated at 25% of the population. Maxentius who was trying to revive the old original pagan gods and temples, was killed by Constantine who eventually led in the era of Christianity.

Maxentius rebuilt this temple and dedicated it to his young son Valerius Romulus who died in 307AD. Romans believed that by building a temple dedicated to themselves, they became a deity (God). Emperor Constantine, after defeating Maxentius, renamed it back to its original name of Temple of Jupiter Stator

The temple was Christianized in 527 AD and the rectangular hall attached to the temple became the Basilica of Santi Cosma e Damiano (Basilica of Saints Cosmas and Damian). It was dedicated to twin brothers from Greece; Cosmas and Damian. They were both physicians, who were martyred and became saints. It is a functioning church today with an entrance from via dei Fori Imperiali

The most striking feature is the circular dome, with red porphyry columns surrounding the massive 4th century bronze door. Legend has it that if a person is sick and sleeps in the Church, they would be cured by receiving a dream that would lead to a cure

In 1632, Pope Urban VII had the basilica restored. They raised the floor seven meters to match the current main level of the roman forum which had risen due to the pile-up of debris. It was further restored in 1947 adding a main entrance from the street and closing the one from the forum. Along with the Pantheon, it is one of the best preserved pagan temples in Rome

There is an additional charge to view the Temple of Romulus and is included as part of the SUPER ticket

Antoninus and Faustina Temple

By historical accounts, Emperor Antoninus and his wife Faustina had a happy marriage. They had two sons and two daughters. Faustina died at the age of 35. Antoninus was devastated by her death and sought to deify her. As a well-liked emperor he received the support of the senate and the temple was built in 141 AD dedicated to his deified wife Faustina the Elder. Emperor Antoninus established a charity dedicated to her called the Girls of Faustina whose goals were to assist orphan girls.

Antoninus was the adoptive son of Emperor Hadrian and one of five “good” emperors of Rome. He reigned for 23 years, longer than any other Emperors other than Augustus. Like his father Hadrian, he disliked war and did not feel the need to expand Rome’s borders any further. His reign concentrated on making life better for those who lived within the empire. This resulted in the longest period of peace Rome had experienced. Historical accounts show him to be well spoken, a good orator, kind hearted, calm and not easily tempted by money and power. He exemplified what the romans wanted in an emperor. He died at the age of 74 in 161AD with such a high level of popularity that he was unanimously deified by the usually squabbling senate. The temple of Faustina was rededicated jointly to Antoninus and Faustina at the request of his successor Marcus Aurelius.

The temple was converted to a roman catholic church in the early seventh century and renamed Chiesa de San Lorenzo in Miranda. It is believed that this was the location of the sentencing of the St Lawrence by the Prefect of Rome. Over time its porch was enclosed with chapels. The notches in the upper part of the columns indicated the mark where the sloping tile roof of this structure was fitted into another ancient structure (they are not rope marks in an attempt to bring down the pillars as stated by various tour guides). The height of the door represents the ground level at the time the temple was built

House of the Vestals

Located behind the circular Temple of Vesta. It was the home of the Vestal Virgins, a female priesthood in Ancient Rome. There were six Vestals between 6 to 10 years old from noble roman families. They were in charge of carrying our numerous rites and rituals including keeping the eternal fire lit in the Temple of Vesta. The served for thirty years where the first 10 years they learnt the sacred rights, the next 10 years they performed these rights and the next 10 years they taught the next set of girls. The sacred rights included fetching holy water, keeping the eternal flame lit, guarding sacred objects, preparing sacrificial items, and other complicated ritualistic acts and ceremonies. During the thirty years served as vestal virgins they were forbidden from having any carnal relationships. At the end of their service, they were free to marry. No one was to harm them as they would be punishable by death and they were allowed to own property

They were watched over carefully by the Pontifex Maximus who had an adjoining house. If they failed to follow the chastity rules they were buried alive in a chamber below ground and their lovers were flogged to death. If they failed to perform their duties, like letting the lit fire go out, they were severely punished including being beaten with rods by the Pontifex Maximus. The rules became so stringent (no joking allowed) and the punishments so harsh that many parents were unwilling to offer their children to the task

The vestals lived together in the House of Vestas which was completely self-contained with a kitchen, a grain mill, an oven, baths, dining room, pools, a portico and courtyard complete with statues of featuring previous Vestals. After the great fire of 64AD, it was rebuilt by Nero. It underwent another restoration by Trajan and then again under Emperor Septimius Seversus. It shows the dedication to the cult over the years

After the suppression of pagan rituals by Theodosius in 390AD, the Vestals left in 394AD and the complex was used as imperial offices

Temple of Vesta (Tiempo di Vesta or Temple de Vesta)

It is located in the roman Forum near the House of Vestal Virgins. It is easily recognizable by its circular shape (refer to interactive map for image). Vesta temples were round and had east facing entrances to make a connection between the eternal fire and the Sun. The cult was started in 7th century BC by Numa Pompilius, the legendary second King of Rome. The eternal fire represented the symbol of eternity of Rome and the romans believed that their fortunes were tied to the flame of the fire. As long the fire burned, Rome would dominate and extinguishing of the fire was viewed as a disaster for Rome

Like other buildings in Rome, the temple was built and rebuilt many times due to fires and earthquakes. The first destruction was in 390BC then again in 241BC, in 210 BC and during the time of Nero and Septimius Severus. It shows the romans dedication to the cult over the many centuries

The Temple remained mostly intact until the Renaissance when it was stripped of its marble and other assets. In 1549 AD it was stripped of the remaining marble to build palaces, monuments and churches throughout Italy. It was completely demolished at that time and only a few pillars and a partial base remain.

The debris from demolishing of the many buildings as well as earthquakes caused the roman forum to be buried over time

Temple of Caesar (Temple dei Divo Guilio, Temple de Caesar)

Julius Caesar was killed in 44BC on March 15, commonly refer to as the “Ides of March”. He was stabbed 23 times by each of the 23 senators. The last stab wound was by his good friend and advisor Brutus. As the knife went into Caesar, he whispered “et tu Brute” translated as “you too, Brutus”. This is now a famous modern day phrase referring to betrayal

In Caesar’s will he had left 75 drachmas (1/3 of a soldiers annual pay) to every roman citizen living in the city. He left his private gardens to the citizens of Rome and named his successor as his adopted son and nephew Octavius. At his funeral, his general and loyal supporter Marcus Antonius (Mark Anthony) gave a speech at the Rostra. His eulogy inflamed the already heightened emotions of the roman people who now viewed Caesar as a deity

Julius Caesar’s Funeral

At Julius Caesars funeral, on the podium at the Rostra in the Roman Forum, Mark Anthony made his famous speech starting with “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ear…“. In a dramatic fashion, Mark Anthony uncovered Caesars toga and lifting it at the end of his sword and waving it towards the crowds so they could see the gashes made by the 23 knife wounds. The crowds rioted, grabbed Caesar’s body and wanting to deify him, took the body to be buried with the other gods in the Temple of Jupiter on Capitoline Hill. They were turned away by the priest as people were not buried in temples. They returned to the forum with his body and cremated him in front of the Regia (palace of the Kings)

In 42 BC the construction of the Temple of Caesar began after the senate defied him and at that time Mark Anthony was named as the first priest of the temple. The construction took a long time and remained undedicated until 29BC. The site of the temple was the location of Julius Caesar’s cremation. In the years that ensued, there was a power struggle between Octavian (Julius Caesars named heir), and Brutus. Mark Anthony and Octavius combined forces to defeat Brutus’s army

Following Brutus’s defeat, there was a power struggle between Octavius and Mark Anthony, who had taken up with Cleopatra in Egypt. He was hoping to use Egypt’s wealth to launch an assault on Octavius. Their failed attempt led to the suicide of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra’s in 31BC.  Octavian became one of Rome’s most beloved rulers and also its first emperor under the name Caesar Augustus

Augustus created a new roman tradition which was that dead roman rulers could be deified and as a god, they would have a temple dedicated to them. Julius Caesar was the first roman to be deified and honored with a temple named after him. The Temple of Caesar was dedicated to him on August 18, 29BC

Today the site of the Temple of Julius Caesar contains a mound of dirt that many leave flowers on. This was the altar of the temple and the actual site of his cremation


Shrine of Venus Cloacina (Sacrum Cloacina, Cloaca Maxima)

The roman forum started its life as a marshy burial ground for the settlements of the seven hilltops that surrounded this valley. Eventfully the settlements started to meet and trade. The marshy valley was seen as a perfects spot for a market to trade. They developed an ingenious sewage system called the Cloaca Maxima. It is one of the world’s earliest sewage systems. The shrine marks the entry to the system that drains the forum and it is marked by a shrine on unknown height and 8 meters in diameter thought to have been constructed in 33BC

Basilica Emilia

In 5th century BC, the site was that of butcher shops called tabernae lanienae. In the 4th century BC they were replaced by tabernae argentarie that is the city bankers or the center of banking. The building has undergone either damage or destructions due to fires, natural disasters and has been rebuilt in 210 BC, 191BC, 179BC, 14AD and 22AD. The 22AD restoration resulted in a basilica that catered to the courts, markets, shops and a place for public speaking. The latest rebuild resulted in a portico that overlooked the forum and was dedicated to the grandsons of Emperor Augustus; Gaius and Lucius (Porticus Gai et Luci). The basilica was almost completely destroyed by King Alaric and his Visigoth army in the Sack of Rome in 410 AD. It was rebuilt in 420 AD and finally collapsed in the 847 AD earthquake. The remains were used as building materials for monuments and churches elsewhere

Column of Phocas

The 44ft fluted column was dedicated to the Byzantine Emperor Phocas, Who had murdered his predecessor along with his five sons to seize the crown in 608 BC. The column of Phocas, located close to the Arch of Septimius is a rededicated column and the last addition to the roman forum. Originally dedicated to Emperor Diocletian, it was rededicated to Emperor Phocas in 608 BC. The original inscription at the base has been chiseled off and a new inscription praising lord Phocas as the perpetual emperor, crowned by God is still visible. The precise reason of this honor is unknown however it may have to do with Phocas’s donation of the Pantheon to the Church in the time of Pope Boniface IV.  Most columns had a statue on top and this one was no different. The top of the column had a gilded statue of Phocas

Two years after the column was erected, Phocas suffered a heinous death in 610BC. His private parts were cutoff, he was skinned, beheaded and his body burned because he had raped a noble woman, identified as the wife of Photius, who was in service to God. Statues and monuments to him were then destroyed across the empire

Curia Julia

Curia was used to denote a place of meeting where an assembly or council discussed religious, official and public issues. Curia became synonymous with the meeting place of the senators. The powerful original House of the Senate was originally built by Emperor Tullus Hostilius, known as a warrior king. He was the third King of the 7 kings of Rome whose grandfather fought alongside the Romulus, the founder and first King of Rome

Changes to Curia Julia over the centuries. Image Credit Mark Miller/WikiCommons

The Curia Hostilia began as a temple just next door to the current Curia Julia. The temple was the location were the warring tribes laid down their weapons during the reign of Romulus. The temple was used by senators as an indoor meeting place and a space was reserved outside for outdoor assembly. This space was called the comitium. The role of the senators was to act as council to the King. The temple was destroyed by fire and the Curia Hostilla was built next door to the original temple site. The site where the temple was, is the location of the present day Chiesa dei Santi Luca e Marti Church

In 80 BC, the dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla enlarged the Curia Hostilius into the comitium space to accommodate additional senators. This new House of Senators was called Curia Cornius. Curia Cornius was burned down in the riots of 52BC. Curia Julia is the third name for the House of Senate. It was built in 44BC by Julius Caesar. During the construction phase the meeting place for the senate was relocated to Teatro di Pompeo (the theater), a temporary curia. He overhauled the curia design of both the House and the Comitium reducing the size of house and the number of senators (from 600 to 300). Caesar was assassinated by some of the senators before the curia was completed. His assassination was carried out by 23 senators (hence 23 stab wounds) who were worried about his thirst for power as he had also named himself dictator for life

Curia Julia was completed by his successor and nephew Octavius (Emperor Augustus Caesar) in 29BC. The structure has remained intact as it was converted into the Sant’Adriano al Foro in the 7th century and further renovations were completed in the 1930’s

Lapis Niger

The Tomb of Romulus who was the founder and first King of Rome. The tomb is located in a prominent position in front of the Senate (Curia). It is covered with a black marble. The area is blocked off with a rope or railings. The oldest Latin inscriptions can be found on the column next to the tomb that suggests that a curse will befall anyone who walks on the site. You can see the Lapis Niger (large black marble slab) on one of the recreations of the roman forum self guided tour and map that accompanies this guide

The speakers’ platform, known as the Rostra was built directly at the base of the Constantine arch and next to the Lapis Niger

Chiesa dei Santi Luca e Martina (Eglise Saint Luc et Martine)

This was built on the site of the comitium, the meeting place of the roman senators. A portion of the comitium was replaced by the Curia Hostilia, the first house built specifically for the senators. This was replaced by the much larger Curia Cornelia in 80 BC which was demolished by Julius Caesar to build a much smaller Curia Julia in 44BC

Martina of Rome was from a noble family and was orphaned at an early age. She turned to Christianity and was persecuted by Emporer Alexander Severus as she defied his command to return to idol worshipping. She was subject to various forms of torture and was finally beheaded. She was martyred in 228AD. Pope Honorius I commissioned the construction of the church dedicated to St Martina in 625AD. It was restored in 1256 AD under Pope Alexander IV. It underwent another renovation in the 17th century

Mamertine Prison – the Tullianum

It was built around 640 BC as a cistern (to hold water) for a spring. Sometime in the 4th century BC, it became a prison. Above the spring were two floors; the lower level dome shaped dungeon called tullianum used for executions and the upper level used to hold prisoners awaiting trial. Prisoners were lowered into the dungeon (lower room) through a small round opening to die slowly. These were prisoners who were not executed publicly. Roman law did not have imprisonment as a sentence, therefore incarceration was a temporary measure for the sentence that was passed down at trial ie: hard labor, death, etc. The tullianium or jail was used as a holding cell for short periods

The apostles St Peter and St Paul are said to have been held prisoners here before their execution. An altar dedicated to them is located in the lower level of the building. It is said that the spring miraculously stated to flow when St Peter was held here and he was able to baptize his prison guards. The cross on the altar is upside down as Peter was crucified upside down. An Altar showing the event of St Peter baptizing his prison guards is located in St Peters Basilica, the site of St Peters Crucifixion. A painting by Raphael titled “Deliverance of St Peter” is in Raphael Room 2 Hall Of Heliodorus, north wall of the Vatican Museum. He was crucified in the Circus of Nero, Old St Peters Basilica was built on the Crucifixion site, his tomb is HERE in St Peters basilica

The site was converted into a Christian place of worship in the medieval times and today has a chapel on each level

  • The Lower level – Capella San Peitro in Carcre (Chapel of St Peter in Prison)
  • The Upper level – San Giusppe Dei Falegname

There is an additional fee to enter if you purchased the regular entrance to the forum, coliseum and palatine hill. You may need to book a time slot to enter

Septimius Severus Arch (Arc de Septime Severe, Arco di Settimio Severo)

The 23 m high and 25 meter wide arch was built in 203 AD to honor the Emperor Septimuis Seveus and his sons Geta and Caracalla. The reliefs in the arch portray the victories against the Parthians and other reliefs show romans capturing barbarians. The arch was topped with a gilded statue of Septimuis and his two sons riding in a chariot pulled by six horses. Unsurprisingly, given roman history, after Septimius’s death, Caracalla took over the throne and had his younger brother Geta killed in 212AD. He even had his name chiseled out from the dedication inscription of the arch and replaced with additional titles and dedications to Septimius and Caracalla

The Rostra (I Rostri, Rostra vetera)

The rostra is a platform measuring 24mx12m at the base of the Arch of Septimuis. It was built as a speaker’s platform where any citizen could address the crowds. It was from this platform that Mark Anthony address the Romans after Julius Caesar’s assassination in his famous speech starting with “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears…”

Umbilicus Urbis

The Umbilicus Urbis is located close to the Arch of Septimuis. A small plaque on a circular brick structure with latin inscription is used to denote the location. It is the symbolic center of roma

Below this location is the Mundus, the gateway to the underworld of the dead. The pit was ritually opened three times a year. According to legend, when Romulus founded rome, he had a circular pit dug and the first fruit of harvest along with a handful of dirt from the citizens place of origin was thrown into this pit every year and the city of Rome was built around it

Milliarium Aureum

Translated as the “golden milestone” it was built in the time of Emperor Augustus Caesar (birth name is Octavian – the nephew of Julius Caesar) in 20BC. Used to measure distance, all locations in Rome Empire were measured relative to their distance from the golden milestone. “All roads lead to Rome” refers to this central spot of Rome’s road network

Temple of Vespasian and Titus

Upon the death of his father Vespasian, Emperor Titus started this temple to deify his father. He died before the temple was completed and his younger brother, Emperor Domitian completed the structure and dedicated it to both his father and his brother. The dual dedication raised the status of the Flavian family to which Domitian belonged. Domitian was also responsible for the construction of the colosseum or Flavain amphitheater


A central repository of official city documents from 78BC, the project was commissioned by the roman dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla (from the Curia Cornelius era). The tabularium is a 74m long building located at the base of Capitoline Hill. It was the location of Rome’s official documents and offices of many city officials, the city hall and records office. The building housed the public state archives including important public acts of ancient Rome, the decrees of the Senate and peace treaties. Its laws and treaties were kept here on tablets. The tablets were engraved on bronze tabulae (hence the name of tabularium). You will not be able to enter as the building is closed to the public

Temple of Saturn (Templo de Saturno)

This site was the location of the Altar of Saturn. The altar was replaced by the Temple of Saturn which was dedicated to the agriculture god in 497BC. The order to build the temple was given by King Superbus, the last King of Rome before the start of the Roman Republic. At one time it held the public treasury which was beneath the stairs under the high podium. The temple underwent several restorations in 42BC and after a fire in 283AD. Very little else is known of its history. It is identified by the eight columns that are still left standing at the foot of Capitoline Hill on the western end of the roman forum

The worshipping of Saturn was celebrated on December 17 every year dating back to the 5th century. It was a very popular celebration which included exchanging of gifts, slaves were given the same rights as other roman citizens and there was a general atmosphere of goodwill. The celebrations could last up to seven days. Over time this festival was rolled into the Christmas celebration

Basilica Julia (Basilica Giulia)

The land was part of the House Scipio Africanus, a great roman general known as the Scipio the Great. He eventually retired to the country after being disillusioned by the roman political system and led a quiet life before his death in 183BC. Tiberius Sempronius inherited this land through his wife, who was Scipio’s daughter. Sempronius was a popular roman political figure, who built the Basilica Sempronia, on this site in 169BC. In 54 BC Julius Caesar demolished the Basilica Sempronia to build the Basilica Julia at 101 meters long and 49 meters wide

The basilica Julia was completed by Augustus (Octavian) and dedicated to Julius Caesar in 46BC. It burned shortly after and was repaired and rededicated in 12 AD. It was the location of four civil courthouses in an open plan layout. Historical documents show the exasperation of senators as they pleaded their cases and were drowned out by others in the court rooms adjacent. Those with great oratory skills seemed to get the most applause and best audience, frustrating the other senators who had a hard time having their case heard above the adjacent court room applause and speeches

One of the court rooms held the Court of Hundred, which ruled over inheritance issues. One particular interesting issue is that of a woman whose 80 year old father disinherited her 11 days before his death in favor of his new wife. The daughter took the wife to court and won the lawsuit.

The Basilica was a favorite meeting place. Aside from the court rooms, it included shops, the portico showed floor etchings of checker or chess type boards. It was destroyed by fire in 283AD and rebuilt and destroyed again during the Visigoths Sack of Rome in 410AD and restore in 416AD.  Part of the basilica was converted into a church in the 7th or 8th century

Temple of Castor and Pollux (Il Tempio dei Dioscuri)

It is located next to the basilica Julia but only three pillars remain of the temple. Castor and Pollux were twin sons of Jupiter where Pollux was immortal and Castor was mortal. Originally built in 484 BC after the roman general and dictator Postumius defeated the Tarquin Kings who had ruled Rome.  Legend has it that the twin brother Castor and Pollux helped the roman army defeat the king’s army and then were seen to have stopped at a watering hole for their horses at the Juturna Springs. The temple was built right next to the Juturna Springs fountain. Like other buildings in the Roman Forum, it underwent destruction and rebuilds over the centuries falling into decline staring in the 4th century AD after pagan worship was discontinued

Santa Maria Antiqua (Ancient Church of St Mary)

It is located at the back of the Temple of Castor and Pollux, close to Basilica Julia at the base of Palatine Hill. The church was converted from an old guardhouse that was attached to a ramp and was most likely the entrance hall to the Ramp of Domitian. The ramp connected the imperial palace on palatine hill to the forum and allowed the emperor to move between the two in his chariot. It is still in its original form

After the 9th century earthquake (847AD) it was buried, thereby sealing and preserving it, until it was discovered in the 20th century. This preserved many of the original frescoes and both roman and Greek-byzantine artwork from the early middle ages. With a stunning interior brought to life by modern technology, one feels that they have gone back in time 1500 years as it’s so well preserved. A definite visit if you are in the roman forum. The church is not always open to the public due to ongoing excavation

There is an additional charge to view the Santa Maria Antiquaand is included as part of the SUPER ticket

Domitian’s imperial Ramp

It was built in the 1st century BC connecting the roman forum to the imperial palace on palatine hill. The 200m long ramp was designed to allow the emperor to make a majestic entrance by chariot. Originally there were 7 ramps levels with six turns in between. Some ramps are above ground and others are below ground. Only 4 ramp levels have survived, the rest are thought to have been destroyed in the earthquake of 847AD. The reception hall of the ramp was converted into a church in the 6th century (Santa Maria Antiqua)

Lacus Juturnae (Spring of Juturna)

The fountain is from the 2nd century BC and is dedicated to the water nymph and goddess Juturna. It is located at the foot of Palatine Hill were Castor and Pollux stopped to water their horses before after the battle of Lake Regillus in 496BC. The spring was most likely a source of fresh water for Palatine Hill. On occasion, the spring was used by the  Vestal Virgins for their religious ceremonies. The water at the Lacus Iuturnae was thought to have healing properties. The elderly and infirm would go to the spring with offerings in order to secure the assistance of Juturna in curing their illness. It was in use until the aqueduct was built in 312BC

Domus Tiberiana – Roman Forums

The official palace of Emperor’s Caligula and Nero on Palatine Hill. The ground was leveled to build a very long terrace and colossal walls. Most of it is still buried beneath Cardinal Alessandro Farnese’s Gardens of the 16th century. Caligula linked the palace via a bridge to the Temple of Castor and Pollux. The bridge was disbanded after Caligula’s assassination. It was destroyed in Nero’s great fire of 64AD and he built another palace to replace this one, the Domus Aurea. The Domus Aurea, referred to as the Golden House, was hated by the Roman public and led to Nero’s downfall

Farnese Gardens (Orti Farnesiani sul Palatino Rome)

The first private gardens in Europe, they were the work of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (Alessandro Farnese became Pope Paul III). He purchased a portion of the ruins of Domus Tiberiana on palatine hill in 1550 AD. He had it filled in and converted into a summer home with terraced botanical gardens that overlooked the roman forum. There are some remnants of the Farnese Gardens including ruins of fountains, pools and pavilions that attest to its beauty, however very little has survived. The Farnese family home was located in the Palazzo Farnese in Ancient Rome and the Villa Farnese in the Trastevere region, across the Tiber River.

Palace of Domitian (Flavian Palace or Domus Flavia or Domus Augustana) – Nero’s Palace on Palatine Hill

The Palace of Domitian was built on top of Neros Domus Transitoria palace located on Palatine Hill. It was Nero’s first palace. After the great fire of 64AD, he moved from this palace to the new palace in the Roman Forum. The new palace was hated by the people, it was eventually demolished to build the Roman Colosseum.

Nero is said to have caused the fire of 64AD so that he could build a new palace in the Roman Forum, which he did. However he blamed the Christians for the fire and as punishment he crucified St Peter on that lie. St Peters Basilica was built at the site of St. Peters crucifixion. Then using the ”newly created” space in the Roman Forum, Nero’s built his new palace and moved from his palace on Palatine Hill to the new palace in the Roman Forum. The Roman’s eventually realized what he had done and that led to his downfall. The new palace was demolished and/or repurposed and on that same site the colosseum was built. (Map of Colosseum)

The Palace of Domitian, also called Domus Augustana, was built at the end of 1st century BC overlooking Circus Maximus. The complex contained separate areas for business activities, personal life and outdoor gardens. Domus Augustana referred to the private area of the palace and Domus Flavia referred to the public area of the Flavian Palace

Flavian Palace Structure:
  • The gardens or stadium was a large rectangular area with gardens and an area for performances, smaller events and foot races
  • Domus Flavia is easily identified as it had three vaulted halls that faced the roman forum. Two of these halls were basilicas and one was a large reception hall. During this period basilicas were meeting places to conduct business and not as a place of worship
  • Domus Augustana had a large pillar courtyard, a spacious outdoor dining room called a triclinium, and private rooms

The palace become the office residence of the subsequent emperors and remained virtually intact until the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 5th century AD. 

House of Livia on Palatine Hill

Home of Livia; she was the wife of Emperor Augustus (Octavian) and was also known as Julia Augustus. Livia and Augustus had houses side by side on Palatine hill. You could say her house of part of the Augustus palace. Livia also had a Villa in Pompeii, Villa dei Misteri, that was destroyed during the eruption. There is an additional charge to view the House of Livia and is included as part of the SUPER ticket; you will need to book a time slot to enter

Domus Augustus on Palatine Hill (House of Augustus)

Octavian (Emperor Augustus Caesar) bought the house from a famous orator Quintus Hortensius and moved his residence from the roman forum to palatine hill. He expanded the house in 36BC. His house should not be confused with the 92AD 8,600sqm palatial complex of Emperor Domitian on palatine hill called Domus Augustana and also known as Palace of Domitian. Octavian’s house was considered very modest for an emperor. It is said that he slept in the same bedroom for 40 years. He built an adjoining house for his wife Livia, called the House of Livia. On the site he built the Temple of Apollo Palatinus.

The rooms in the house are identified by the well preserved frescoes ie: the pine Festoon room (room 6) and the room of masks (room 5). The house was destroyed by a fire in 3AD. It was rebuilt and became a property of the state. A tour of the house reveals his bedroom, study, hallway and a variety of stunning frescoe. The house has additional significance as it is located close to the hut of Romulus, and on the site of the Lupercal. The lupercal is said to be the cave where the she-wolf nursed Romulus and his twin brother Remus until they were discovered by the shepherd Faustulus who then raised them

Hut of Romulus (Casa Romuli)

A single room mud and straw hut on palatine hill, this is said to have been the residence of King Romulus, the founder of Rome. It was used by the pagan priests to offer sacrifices. The hut has suffered the same fate as many buildings in the roman forum having been damaged by fire and storms however it was restored to its original state on these occasions

Palatine Museum on Palatine Hill

Many artifacts from the excavation of palatine hill are located here, these include statues, mosaics, frescoes, pottery and an informative video. There are washrooms located just outside the museum as well. Entry was included in the regular roman forum ticket and may now be part of the new SUPER ticket, which is an additional purchase

San Sebastiano al Palatino

A small 110×150 meters church on Palatine Hill dedicated to the 3rd century Christian martyr Saint Sebastian. It is built on a previous pagan temple site, using the foundations of the temple to build the church. Saint Sebastian was killed during Emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians. He was tied to a post and shot with arrows, which did not kill him. Saint Sebastian was rescued and eventually bludgeoned to death in 288AD. He was known as the saint who protected people from the plague

Circus Maximus (Circo Massimo)

A largest entertainment venue of ancient Rome accommodating 150,000 spectators at one time. It was built in the Valley of Murcia between Palatine Hill and Aventine hill, the earliest seven hill settlements of Rome. The venue measured 621mx118m and was used for chariot races, religious festivals, celebratory feasts, public games, recitals, hunts and gladiator games. Eventually the gladiator games moved to the colosseum

Around the 6th century AD, the circus fell into disrepair and its materials were used to build churches and palaces elsewhere; its monuments such as the two obelisks were moved to other sites in Rome. One of the obelisks is located at Pizza del Popolo and if you get a chance to visit the piazza when you are in Rome, you will see the obelisk. The area was prone to flooding, and without flood management it was buried under 6m of debris. Minimum excavations have been carried out and today the area is a park but you can still make out the outline of the area

Circus Maximus
Image Credit © Dorling Kindersley Ltd

Other Attractions in Italy

  • Visit the Roman Colosseum. Click on the Roman Colosseum attractions map HERE and accompanying Colosseum attractions guide HERE
  • Take the Rome attractions map and self guided tour: It includes the Vatican City attractions map HERE and the Vatican attractions guide HERE
  • Self Guided Walking tour to explore the neighborhood of Trastevere with map of attractions HERE and guide of attractions HERE
  • Visit St Peters Basilica. Explore all the attractions in St Peter’s Basilica with the attractions guide HERE
  • One of my favorite places is the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. The map of attractions is HERE and the self guided walking tour is HERE
  • Self Guided Walking Tours – Day Trips from Rome
    • Visit Pompeii with a complete self guided tour map HERE and the attractions guide to the 49 points of interest HERE
    • Spend the day in Florence, this was by far one of my best day trips. The self guided walking tour map is HERE and the attractions guide is HERE