The Hidden Landmarks of Antiquity: Ancient Rome

There are many landmarks from the Ancient Roman Empire that remain today. You have probably heard of the Coliseum, Pantheon, or even the Circus Maximus, but there are so many other fascinating ancient ruins. Here is a list of 8 less-known places that were important to Ancient Rome:

Piazza Navona

The Piazza Navona, arguably the most famous landmark on this list, is one of Rome’s many piazzas. This square has been a highlight of Rome since the 15th century when the local market was relocated here. From the baroque fountain created by Bernini to the Obelisk of Domitian, the Piazza Navona remains a beautiful landmark in the center of Rome. 

Domus Aurea

In 64 AD, a fire broke out across Rome and destroyed much of Rome’s center during the 6 days it lasted. This “Great Fire of Rome” caused Emperor Nero to rebuild his estate, which was known as the Domus Aurea. However, Nero’s palace, equipped with several banqueting rooms and an artificial lake, was destroyed by Nero’s successors. Considered the most extravagant construction in Rome’s history, the remnants of the Domus Aurea can still be visited today.

The Theater of Marcellus

In the late first century BCE, Julius Caesar began to build the Theater of Marcellus, but this project was not completed until the reign of Augustus. Deemed the most important and largest theater of Ancient Rome, the distinct structural design of the Theater of Marcellus influenced iconic buildings like the colosseum. Over time, this theater was converted into a fortress, redesigned into a palace, and now this building is viewed by visitors only from its exterior. 

Hadrian’s Villa

Hadrian’s Villa was original in size and architecture for its time. Emperor Hadrian was inspired greatly by his numerous voyages to Greece, Egypt, and other parts of Italy when he helped design this villa in 117 AD. Unlike many other Roman emperors, Hadrian preferred living outside of Rome, in Tivoli, rather than in a villa on the Palatine Hill. This area is so historically significant that the UNESCO World Heritage Centre considers it to be one of Italy’s world heritage sites.

Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian’s wall is another UNESCO World Heritage site. This wall, named after Emperor Hadrian, was designed to guard the north-west frontier of the Roman Empire. The wall stretches 73 miles, connecting two English coasts, and stands today as a testament to the power and wealth of the Roman empire. 

Castel Sant’Angelo

The last landmark on this list built by Emperor Hadrian is the Castel Sant’Angelo, otherwise known as Hadrian’s Mausoleum. This building holds the tomb of the former emperor and his family, as well as numerous ancient artifacts. This monument covered in marble was then used as a fortress to protect the city of Rome in the Middle Ages. Most notably, there was a secret escape route that guaranteed the pope a safe passage from its walls to the Vatican. The Castel Sant’Angelo is still on the northern bank of the Tiber River over 2,000 years later.

The Pont Du Gard

Located in Southern France, the Pont Du Gard is the highest Roman aqueduct ever created. In 50 AD, this impressive structure was built to provide water to the city of Nimes, which was a part of the Roman Empire. With it remaining more than 900 feet long and 157 feet high, it is not surprising that this monumental structure has become a huge tourist attraction in France. 

El Djem

Likely the least known landmark on this list, the El Djem is one of the most impressive Roman structures in Africa. Currently remaining in Tunisia, the El Djem is an amphitheatre that used to hold over 30,000 spectators of gladiatorial combats, circus games, and chariot races. A fun fact about this monument is that it served as a backdrop for the movie Gladiator! (And if you don’t know what Gladiator is, check out our movie recommendations blog post!)