Rome is not shy of a few ancient ruins; in fact there are a number of buildings and areas that still stand and remain to be explored. As Rome dates back to 27 BC, when it was founded by the two brothers Romulus and Remus, there’s certainly plenty of history behind the city. Surprising at first, as a tourist when you stop to marvel the rubble and ruins every corner, it’s not long before you become accustomed to the juxtapositions of the ancient and the new wherever you look. However, because there are so many ruins and so much to see we thought we’d whittle it down for you, and pick our Top 10 must-see ancient Roman ruins in and around Rome. After all, you can’t leave Rome without a bit of culture.
One of the most iconic buildings in Rome, the Coliseum dates back to 72 AD and was commissioned by the Emperor Flavius. Did you know the name of the building was originally called Amphitheatrum Flavium
after its patron? You can still see the name engraved in its wall today. Used largely for entertainment and events, the Coliseum is famous for its gladiator fights and wild animal battles.
Re-built in 126 AD by Emperor Hadrian, the Pantheon is one of the best preserved buildings from Ancient Rome. It stood as a temple for all the Roman gods, yet has been used as a Roman Catholic Church since the 7th century. Its impressive structure makes it one of the most iconic temples in the world with a huge oculus and dome, granite portico and rotunda.
- Pyramid of Cestius
The Pyramid of Cestius is an ancient Roman tomb (and reminiscent in design of the ancient Egyptian pyramids of Nubia), built for Gaius Cestius around 18 - 12 BC. Its white marble façade measures nearly 30m2 at the base and is 37m high. At the fork of two ancient roads, Via Ostiensis and the ancient Via della Marmorata, it’s also one of the best preserved buildings of ancient Rome. Although visitors are not permitted entrance into the tomb, the burial chamber is decorated with orate frescoes by Bartoli, too.
- Arch of Constantine
Standing tall between the Coliseum and the Palatine Hill, the Arch of Constantine is an epic monument to Rome’s past. Built in 315 AD to commemorate Emperor Constantine’s victory over Maxentius. Spanning over the ancient Via Triumphalis – the street emperors took to enter the city in triumph – it measures 21m high and 26m wide and marks a departure from the stylistic trends of the previous century.
- Terme di Caracalla
These Roman baths of Caraccalla are the second largest public baths in Rome, built between 212 and 216 AD. Built as a form of political propaganda, they were used to unite Romans from every social class – blurring lines of caste and class. The baths were still in use until the 6th century and nowadays their impressive ruins act as a backdrop to host famous opera and ballet performances in the summer months
- Roman Forum
For centuries, the Roman Forum was the centre of Ancient Roman life. As a bustling market place, traders would exchange commerce, it would host gladiator fights at the neighbouring Coliseum, even political trials and public speeches. In the valley of the two hills; the Palatine and the Constantine, the Forum includes many famous landmarks such as the Arch of Septimus Severus, the Shrine of Vulcan and the Temple of Romulus.
- Castel Sant’angelo
Having passed through the centuries, built over 2,000 years ago by the Emperor Hadrian, Castel Sant’angelo (or Mausoleum of Hadrian) is a testament to ancient Roman construction. Housing the tomb of Emperor Hadrian, it is now a museum but was once a fortress, prison and refuge for the Popes. Did you know there’s a secret underground tunnel that runs to the Vatican?
- Ostia Antica Forum
Just outside of the city centre, Ostia Antica forum is one of Rome’s most famous archaeological sites and namely so as Ostia was the old harbour city of Ancient Rome. You can walk around this sprawling rural forum dating from 7- 3 BC and admire the ruins of the military camp, the Castrum,
and the temple of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva in the Capitolium –
to name a few.
- Palatine Hill
Just higher than the Roman Forum, the Palatine Hill is one of the most ancient parts of Rome and backs onto the Circus Maximus, beside the Coliseum, too. According to Roman mythology, the Palatine Hill was where the she-wolf found the two founders of Rome, as babies hidden in a cave. There is evidence to trace the Palatine Hill back 1000 years BC, and you can see the ruins of the Flavian Palace and the Statium of Domitian. 10. Aurelian Walls Built to enclose the Seven Hills of Rome and the Trastevere district as a military defence, the walls ran 19kms in total and were 3.5m thick. Built between 271 and 275 AD they have undergone some extension over the years, however, they remain surprisingly well preserved considering their part played in the protection of the city up to the 19th century. Head to Muro Torto in Villa Borghese for one of the most intact areas.