PalatineHill

The Palatine Hill overlooks the Forum Romanum and is the site of the palace ruins of the Roman Emperors.
The English word Palace and its equivalent in many other languages comes from the name of the Palatine Hill.
Legends of Rome place the Lupercal on the hill (the cave where the she-wolf found Romulus and Remus, nursed
them, and kept them alive). Romulus went on to found Rome. Recent excavations have found what is believed
to be the Lupercal under the House of Livia, and they have also found ancient Iron Age huts on the Palatine
hill that existed before the founding of Rome. The Palatine was the site of the first Roman settlement, and
in the Republican period it was the site of the most prestigious houses before the Palaces were built.

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Via Sacra and the Palatine Hill
Southern and Northern Palaces
Retaining Walls of Tiberius’ Palace

Curiae Veteris
The Farnese Gardens
The Farnese Nymphaeum
Greek Sphinx

Flavian Palace Aula Regia
Stadium of Domitian (Hippodrome)
Flavian Nymphaeum and Cistern
Domus Augustana Views

San Bonaventura al Palatino
Aqua Claudia Aqueduct
Thermae of Severus
Circus Maximus Views

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ViaSacra_PalatineHill_7174


Via Sacra Palatine Hill 7174
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The Palatine Hill in the background, beyond the columns of the Temple of Venus and Roma
and the Via Sacra. Just beyond the Via Sacra, in the side of the hill, were Domitian-era shops
on terraces carved into the hillsides of the Palatine Hill, which offered their wares to passersby.

Palatine_ImperialPalaces_CircusMaximus_6917M


Palatine Imperial Palaces Circus Maximus 6917 M
1650 x 849 (324 KB)

A large panorama of the southern Palatine showing the width of the Imperial Palace ruins.
The view is across Circus Maximus from the Aventine Hill. At the far left is the Flavian Palace,
above the modern structure is the end of Domus Augustana, and on the right is Domus Severiana.

DomusTiberiana_PalatineHill_8208M


Domus Tiberiana Palatine Hill 8208 M
1667 x 732 (373 KB)

Palaces on the Palatine include the Palace of Tiberius and Caligula (shown above), the Flavian Palace
of Vespasian, Titus and Domitian (later expanded by several other Emperors), Domus Augustana and the
houses of Augustus and Livia, and Domus Severiana (the palace of Septimius Severus) over Circus Maximus.

The northwest area of the Roman Forum, showing the Domus Tiberiana on the Palatine Hill overlooking the Forum.
In the center of the image are the three standing columns and entablature of the Temple of Castor and Pollux. Directly to
the right of the columns is the enormous structure identified as the Temple of Divine Augustus. The open area at the bottom
left is the remains of the Basilica Julia (with the fragmentary columns), a large public building used for meetings and official
business, dedicated in 46 BC by Julius Caesar. Behind it is the Temple of Vesta and House of the Vestal Virgins. Right
are two Honorary Columns (concrete and brick supports) and the edge of a Rostrum in front of the Temple of Saturn.

Images and information on the Roman forum are on the Forum Romanum page.

Domus_Tiberiana_7355


Domus Tiberiana 7355
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The massive retaining walls at the edge of the Palatine Hill which support the foundations of the Domus Tiberiana, the palace of Tiberius and Caligula. The first true palace on the Palatine Hill, only the perimeter has been excavated (the entire central core has yet to be explored). Part of the arched section at left was used as a Treasury, then as a warehouse.

The area on the hill available for building was expanded by the construction of these walls, and the opportunity was taken by the architects to create an extensive underground network of rooms and passages which were used to transport and store food and materials which were used to support the enormous palace.

DomusTiberiana_CaligulaPassages_7327

Domus Tiberiana Caligula Passages 7327
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— Note the file sizes of these highly detailed images —

The entrances to some of the underground passages and
storage rooms below the Palace of Tiberius and Caligula.

DomusTiberiana_CaligulaPassages_7323


Domus Tiberiana Caligula Passages 7323
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Tiberius built the first of the enormous palaces on the
Palatine Hill, and it was later expanded by Caligula. The
ground was leveled to create a huge terrace, partly by the
construction of the retaining walls which are shown here.

DomusTiberiana_CaligulaPassages_7330


Domus Tiberiana Caligula Passages 7330
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Part of the structure of Tiberius’ Palace (shown in
the image at the top of the page), faced the Senate.
The imposing facade was a constant reminder that the
Emperor was a power above that of the Senate.

DomusTiberiana_CaligulaPassages_7318


Domus Tiberiana Caligula Passages 7318
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These passages below the Palace of Tiberius were used to move people and guards
as well as to store food and goods. Most of the people who worked in these underground
passages were slaves. The passages formed an intricate labyrinth below the Palace.

Most of Tiberius Palace (other than the retaining walls and these entrances) was
filled in during the 16th c. construction of the Farnese Gardens (further below).

Palatine_RetainingWalls_7242


Palatine Retaining Walls 7242
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The retaining walls below the ancient Temple of Jupiter
which was later expanded and rededicated to the Syrian
sun-god El-Gabal under Emperor Elagabalus in 218 AD.
This was the patron deity of his homeland (Emesa, Syria).

The Temple of Jupiter was originally built by Domitian in
81-96 AD, and after the death of Elagabalus, the temple
was rededicated to Jupiter by Severus Alexander in 222.

Just around the hill to the left is where recent excavations found Palatine House, the birthplace of Octavian (who later became the Emperor Augustus). Many Republican period houses were overbuilt by Imperial Age palaces but the Palatine House was not, implying that it was important to preserve the site. It is also important as it helped to identify the location of the Curiae Veteris, the first religious shrine of the clans (Curiae), which was just below Palatine House.

CuriaeVeteris_Arch_Palatine_7294


Curiae Veteris Arch Palatine 7294
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DomusTiberiana_OuterWalls_7331


Domus Tiberiana Outer Walls 7331
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An arch in the lower retaining wall of Domus Tiberiana leading to the Roman Forum. Beyond the arch you can see one of the Honorary Columns in front of the Basilica Julia.

The Farnese Gardens

In 1534, Pope Paul III was elected, and one of his first acts was to make his grandson Alessandro Farnese a Cardinal (at the age of 14). Cardinal Alessandro Farnese was a great supporter of the Jesuits (he built Chiesa del Gesu), and he became very interested in the ancient past of Rome.

He bought several parcels of land at the top of the Palatine which overlooked the Forum, including the site of Domus Tiberiana, and created Horti (or Orti) Farnesiani (Farnese Gardens) as a summer residence (the primary residence of the Farnese was the enormous Palazzo Farnese about a half mile up the Tiber just past Ponte Sisto).

The Farnese Gardens were the first private botanical garden in Europe, in which Alessandro Farnese  placed his collection of ancient Roman sculptures, the largest collection of ancient sculpture assembled in private hands since antiquity.

Below are images of some of the remains of the Gardens.

HortiFarnesiani_7249


Horti Farnesiani 7249
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Alessandro Farnese filled in the site of the Palace of Tiberius and Caligula and on the southeast corner of the property he built two aviaries. The building above is one of those aviaries, with the cage removed (the entire top of the building was a peaked cage, another is just out of the picture to the left).

Fontana_delTeatro_HortiFarnesiani_7251


Fontana del Teatro Horti Farnesiani 7251
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Centered below the aviaries is a sweating fountain called the Fontana del Teatro, and the Nymphaeum shown below. The fountain was added in the 17th century when water was restored to the Palatine Hill. The pressure was low, so instead of a spouting fountain, water ran over the surface of the rock.

HortiFarnesiani_StaircaseLanding_7254


Horti Farnesiani Staircase Landing 7254
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Ornate female figures atop acanthus leaves and scrolls flank
a shell-topped apse on the landing of the staircase to the aviaries.

Nymphaeum_HortiFarnesiani_7246


Nymphaeum Horti Farnesiani 7246
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Below Fontana del Teatro is the Nymphaeum. Water flows down the wall into the basin of
the Fontana del Pioggia, out the cleft in the front, and on its merry way out of the Nymphaeum.

In order to escape the heat of the Mediterranean summers, ancient Romans used natural caves,
which they decorated with statues such as the one seen atop the base with the Farnese fleur-de-lis
on the left in the image above. Tiberius recreated the Cave of Polyphemus at his villa by the sea.
If an Italian garden lacked a natural cave, often artificial grottoes were created (to see a very
ornate grotto, click the link to the Grotto of Buontalenti in the Medici’s Boboli Gardens).

GreekSphinx_HortiFarnesiani_7259


Greek Sphinx Horti Farnesiani 7259
1500 x 1092 (735 KB)

Inside the Garden, just above the Arch of Titus is an ancient set of walls,
excavated in the late 19th century and tentatively identified as the ancient 750 BC
temple dedicated to Jupiter Stator, founded by Romulus after the fight with the Sabines
as an altar with a small wall. Rebuilt in 294 BC after a battle against the Samnites
by Marcus Regulus in Ionic style on the site of the original altar, it was chosen
as the site of Cicero’s first oration against Catiline in 63 BC. The temple
was destroyed in the great fire of 64 AD. Note the mosaic decoration
around the niche (far left). Beside the Farnese fleur-de-lis on the
wall at the upper left is a Greek-style sphinx (detail below).

GreekSphinx_HortiFarnesiani_7261


Greek Sphinx Horti Farnesiani 7261
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The Greek sphinx is different than the Egyptian sphinx in that it has the
body of a lion, but it also has the wings of an eagle and the head and
breast of a woman (in this case, also multiple abdominal breasts).
The sphinx is seated in front of a large volute urn or amphora.

The Greek Sphinx was a malevolent beast who killed and
ate anyone who could not answer her famous riddle. She was
the guardian of the ancient city of Thebes, and asked her riddle of
anyone who desired passage. “Which creature goes on four legs in the
morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs at night, and is
weaker the more legs it uses?” Oedipus came up with the
correct answer: Man, who crawls as a baby, walks on
two feet as an adult, and uses a cane in old age.

Alessandro Farnese was, as mentioned above, a great collector of ancient
sculpture (and other art). He had a literal army of sculptors restoring fragmentary
ancient sculptures (Greek, Roman, Etruscan, etc.). Based on the style, this seems to
be an ancient sculpture from around 600-500 BC, which was probably restored by
Alessandro Farnese’s team of resident sculptors to be placed in the Garden.

FlavianPalace_AulaRegia_7264


Flavian Palace Aula Regia 7264
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The view from the corner of the second peristyle of Domus Augustana towards the Aula Regia,
the Imperial Throne Room and Reception Room where the Emperor held court. The Aula Regia was
one of the largest rooms in the Flavian Palace. The walls were lined with marble, and it was famous for
the 16 Numidian and Phrygian marble columns and an elaborate frieze carved into the entablature.
The walls were decorated with eight niches of different designs flanked by porphyry columns.
Colored marble statues in these niches were found and are now in the Museum of Parma.
There were huge statues made of black basalt, including a statue of Hercules and one
of Bacchus which are also in the Museum of Parma (they were part of the Farnese
art collection, which was willed to the Bourbons after the Farnese died out). A
few other remaining pieces from the Aula Regia are in Palazzo Farnese.

Stadium_ofDomitian_PalatineHill_7268


Stadium of Domitian Palatine Hill 7268
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The Stadium of Domitian (Hippodrome), was too small to hold chariot races even though it was built in the shape of a Circus. Domitian rebuilt an existing garden into this stadium, and it may have continued as a garden (and housed foot races).

Stadium_ofDomitian_PalatineHill_7269


Stadium of Domitian Palatine Hill 7269
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At each end are the remains of ornamental fountains. Top left is the Exedra, and at right, the curved end was a construction of the Ostrogothoc King Theodoric, who ruled Italy from 493 to 526. He built a riding school at the end of the Stadium.

Stadium_ofDomitian_PalatineHill_7272


Stadium of Domitian Palatine Hill 7272
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The entire stadium view, looking southwest towards the Circus Maximus.
The Stadium (Hippodrome) replaced all of the buildings from the Republican
 period through the period of Nero. Much of the stadium displays brick stamps of
Domitian. Porticos were built by Hadrian and many restorations were by Severus.
On the left is the curved Exedra, which is attributed to Hadrian and was restored as a
part of the systematic reconstruction of the southwestern Palatine by Septimius Severus.
The columns are all of the time of Severus, as are the flat piers along the outer wall.
Severus restored much of the Palatine after the fire of 191 AD destroyed it.
The Palace and Thermae he built south of the Stadium (shown below)
replaced many of the ornate constructions of Hadrian’s time.

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Rome Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

Direct Link to the Gallery with images of the Palatine Hill

There are a number of images in this section that are not yet on the Photoshelter site.
If an image you want is not yet uploaded, contact Ron Reznick (info at bottom of page).

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There are 18 Galleries in the Photoshelter Rome Collection

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FlavianNymphaeum_Ruins_7274


Flavian Nymphaeum Ruins 7274
1500 x 1092 (676 KB)

Just north of the Stadium is a Nymphaeum (one of several of different designs on the Palatine Hill). It was supplied from a cistern located under San Bonaventure al Palatino church.

FlavianNymphaeum_Ruins_7275


Flavian Nymphaeum Ruins 7275
1500 x 1092 (696 KB)

The cistern was fed from the Aqua Claudia. Dating from the 1st century, it supplied water to the Stadium/Garden, and also created these cool spaces to spend hot summer days.

DomusAugustana_Peristyle_SanBonaventura_7262


Domus Augustana Peristyle San Bonaventura 7262
1500 x 1092 (458 KB)

In the Roman period as in Hellenistic Greece, people tended to walk when they talked.
This outer peristyle at Domus Augustana was one place where the Emperor would walk
with his guests. Domus Augustana was the private side of the Flavian Palace, begun by
Vespasian and Titus and completed by Domitian in 92 (the Flavian Imperial dynasty).
Vespasian, Titus and his brother Domitian were also the builders of the Colosseum.
The Flavian palace itself was used for state meetings and other purposes, while
the lavishly decorated Domus Augustana next to it was the residence of the
Emperor. To the left is the church of San Bonaventura al Palatino, a friary
built by Cardinal Francesco Barberini and Bonaventure of Barcelona
in 1675 on the ruins of an ancient cistern fed by Aqueduct Claudius
which supplied the Severan Thermae (baths, shown further below).

AugustanaPeristyle_FlavianLararium_7278


Augustana Peristyle Flavian Lararium 7278
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Another view across the northern peristyle of Domus Augustana towards the
Lararium wall. The Lararium was a small room off the Aula Regia, possibly used by
the Praetorian Guard, which held statues of divinities which protected the Imperial Family.
This was the smallest, least decorated room in the palace, thus the assumption that
it was the room which housed the Praetorian Guard protecting the Emperor.

Church_ofSanBonaventura_alPalatino_7279


Church of San Bonaventura al Palatino 7279
1500 x 1092 (638 KB)

The Nymphaeum shown just above is on the right, out of picture. In the center background is
the Church of San Bonaventure al Palatino. Founded by Cardinal Francesco Barberini and
Bonaventura of Barcelona in 1675, it stands above the cistern which fed the Nymphaeum
and supplied other needs for water for the Imperial Palaces. It was the terminus of the
extension to the Claudian Aqueduct (Aqua Claudia) shown below. The friary is now
considered to be a very romantic site for picturesque Italian wedding ceremonies.

DomusSeveriana_Ruins_7286


Domus Severiana Ruins 7286
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The path leading southeast from the Stadium towards the Thermae (baths) of Severus and the Domus Severiana.This was the last of the palaces built upon the Palatine Hill, over a set of imposing terraces with a view of the Circus Maximus. The construction had begun under Domitian, but it wasn’t until Severus over 100 years later that the area was completely developed. The baths are connected to the Aqua Claudia, which was supported by the arches seen to the right.

AquaClaudia_7290


Aqua Claudia 7290
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The secondary branch of the Aqua Claudia was built by Nero to supply water to his Domus Aurea. This extension to the Palatine was rebuilt by Domitian and several later Emperors.

AquaClaudia_7308


Aqua Claudia 7308
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The upper arch of the Aqua Claudia on the east slope of the Palatine Hill (and the upper part of the triple arch below it) were rebuilt by Domitian and later by Vespasian. They were originally built by Nero during the urban renewal project after the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD. This section of the aqueduct extension terminated at the exedra on the left of the stadium, with a short side route filling the reservoir shown above. There was another extension that crossed further down the Via Triumphalis to feed the Nymphaeum shown further above and the large reservoir in the cistern under San Bonaventura.

AquaClaudia_7310


Aqua Claudia 7310
1500 x 1092 (741 KB)

The aqueduct system was recently examined in detail, and the core (exposed on the right side of this arch) is from the time of Nero, establishing the fact that Nero was responsible for bringing the volume of water which was required to support the Nymphaeum that became a status symbol of the palaces, and the gardens on the Palatine Hill. The brick stamps show restorations by later Emperors, but Nero brought the water in. Note the fine brickwork in the detail crop below, with narrow mortar lines indicative of a Severan (c. 200 AD) restoration. Compare this with the exposed core at bottom right of the lower arch, with the much wider mortar joints of Nero’s period.

AquaClaudia_detail

Reservoir_Thermae_Severiana_7293


Reservoir Thermae Severiana 7293
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The coffered vault of the Aqua Claudia reservoir behind the exedra of the Stadium. This reservoir supplied the Thermae Severiana and Domus Severiana on the southeast Palatine.

Thermae_Domus_Severiana_7297


Thermae Domus Severiana 7297
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The Severan Baths were built in the period after 200 AD, after Severus reorganized the water system on the Palatine Hill and repaired the Aqua Claudia extensions to bring in more water.

Thermae_Domus_Severiana_7306


Thermae Domus Severiana 7306
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Septimius Severus appropriated the entire output of the Aqua Marcia after allocations to the Caelian Hill
for these baths (he increased the flow through the Aqua Marcia to accommodate his requirements). The
Aqua Marcia no longer supplied water to the Palatine Hill, requiring more water from the Aqua Claudia,
and he repaired the Aqua Claudia system as well (see below). The terrace for Domus Severiana is at
left. This terraced support structure was required as the available space on the hill was restricted.

DomusSeveriana_Ruins_7299


Domus Severiana Ruins 7299
1500 x 1110 (615 KB)

The supporting structures for the Domus Severiana. This was built at the same time as the
Baths (Thermae Severiana), and Severus also built the Septizodium, an enormous three story
water feature and monumental structure at the base of the hill in front of the Domus Severiana.
It had numerous columns, niches and statues, with a statue of the Emperor in the central niche.
It was visible to all who entered the city from the Via Appia, and was built to proclaim to all the
magnificence of the Emperor and the city of Rome as the visitor entered the Imperial zone.
It had seven sections, divisions based on days of the week and number of known planets.
Structures like it were common in Africa, where Severus was from, and the Septizodium
was built primarily to amaze visiting African dignitaries. It survived mostly intact until
the 1588, when it was demolished by Sixtus V for the superb marble, and used
to create his Crypt in Santa Maria Maggiore, the basement of the Obelisk in
Piazza del Popolo, the Column of Marcus Aurelius, and other structures.

Palatine_ImperialPalaces_CircusMaximus_6913


Palatine Imperial Palaces Circus Maximus 6913
1500 x 1092 (412 KB)

The view across the Circus Maximus from the Aventine Hill. At the far left is the Flavian Palace,
above the modern structure is the end of Domus Augustana, and on the right is Domus Severiana.

Palatine_ImperialPalaces_CircusMaximus_6915


Palatine Imperial Palaces Circus Maximus 6915
1500 x 840 (361 KB)

Detail of the end of Domus Augustana and the Domus Severiana terraces from the Circus Maximus.

DomusSeveriana_Ruins_7839


Domus Severiana Ruins 7839
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The facade of the supporting terrace of Domus Severiana lit at night, from the Circus Maximus.

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Rome Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

Direct Link to the Gallery with images of the Palatine Hill

There are a number of images in this section that are not yet on the Photoshelter site.
If an image you want is not yet uploaded, contact Ron Reznick (info at bottom of page).

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There are 18 Galleries in the Photoshelter Rome Collection

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