The millions of tourists who come to Rome want to experience a unique and extraordinary experience to admire the monuments of the ancient city. We begin our adventure in history and archeology starting from the Colosseum, then we go to the Arch of Constantine to conclude the tour at the Roman Forum.
You can walk the path of the ancient Romans and breathe the air of the Flavian dynasty, we will explore these archaeological sites thrilling to experience the Golden Age of Imperial Rome, where men and women full of glory and slaves lived and walked.
Colosseum (Anfiteatro Flavio)
Average visit time: 2 h
Combined ticket to visit the Colosseum and the Roman Forum
Tickets: Adults: € 12; Reduced: € 7.50
Why visit the Colosseum?
The Colosseum (Flavian Amphitheater), symbol of the Roman Empire, is the most famous monument in the world and the biggest attraction for most visitors, the wonder of ancient Rome, one of the seven wonders of the world. Wonder, because it is an absolute masterpiece of architecture and construction techniques of ancient times. You will relive the thrill of games, animal hunting, gladiator combat and naval battles.
The reason why the amphitheater is called the Colosseum seems to derive from the enormous presence of the 35-meter-high bronze statue, not far from there, dedicated to Nero. The Colosseum had the capacity to host about 55,000 spectators.
History of the Colosseum
This large amphitheater was built in the AD 80 and opened the games that lasted a hundred days with a magnificent inauguration; the shows were free and the seats were assigned according to the class of spectators. The illustrious citizens sat in the cavea, while the upper tiers were for the lower classes and for the women.
The amphitheater had an elliptical shape that extended over a surface of 189 by 156 meters, being 48 meters and a half tall. Its external façade is in travertine and is divided into four levels.
The people loved to see the great stage in which gladiators and beasts faced each other in deadly duels, the reenactments of famous naval battles (known by the Greek word Naumachia). The Romans usually filled the arena with water with a system of pipes and channels, a technique where they were masters
The travertine structure was covered with precious marbles; over the centuries, the undeniable beauty of the Colosseum was damaged due to the bad habit of the Romans to steal the marbles, used in part by the popes and nobles to build Palazzo Barberini and Saint Peter’s Basilica.
The remains of the Colosseum
Today we can only see a third part of the original structure. From the ground there are four levels with four overlapping architectural orders: the first three are with eighty arches framed by semi-columns, while the fourth is divided into squares interspersed with windows.
The arena was built with large wooden boards covered in sand. Rooms, mechanical devices and cages containing wild animals were located in the basement. The cages could be hoisted, allowing the animals to appear in the center of the fighting arena.
During the shows on sunny days or while raining, the Colosseum was covered by a huge fabric roof known as the Velarium.
Arch of Costantine
It is the most famous and the largest of the three remaining imperial triumphal arches of Rome. The others, the Arch of Titus and the Arch of Septimius Severus, are located in the nearby Roman Forum.
The Arch of Constantine has three arches, the central one is the largest, 6.50 meters wide by 11.45 meters high and overall is 21 meters high and 25.70 wide. The arch is a collection of sculptures and architectural parts arising from different commemorative cultures and architectures, such as those of the era of Trajan, Hadrian and Commodus.
History of the Arch of Constantine
It was erected on the ancient “Via Triumphalis” (the path reserved for the parades of the triumphalis marching towards the Campidoglio) to celebrate the battle at Ponte Milvio in AD 312, when the Emperor defeated his rival Maxentius. Constantine designed it to testify his power and celebrate his triumphs, but decided to decorate it with elements taken from other monuments that were already popular and familiar to the Roman people.
The historic inscription
At the center of the attic, placed on a long trabeation, it is located the historical inscription:
“IMP(ERATORI) CAES(ARI) F(LAVIO) CONSTANTINE MAXIMO P(IO) F(ELICI) AUGUSTUS S(ENATUS) P(OPULUS) Q(UE) R(OMANUS) QUOD INSTINCTU DIVINITATIS MENTIS MAGNITUDE CUM EXERCITU SUO TAM DE TYRANNO QUAM DE OMNI EIUS FACTIONE A TEMPORE IUSTIS REM PUBLICAM ULTUS EST ARMIS ARCUM TRIUMPHIS INSIGNEM DICAVIT “
That means: “To the Emperor Caesar Flavius Constantine Maximum, Pious, Happy, Augustus, the Senate and the Roman People, because by inspiration of the divinity and for the greatness of his spirit with his army he avenged at one time the state over a tyrant and on all his faction with fair weapons, they dedicated this remarkable arch to its triumphs “.
“In hoc signo vinces”
In the phrase “instinctu divinitatis” (“for inspiration of the deity”) an improbable proof of the conversion of Constantine during the battle has been interpreted. This following a vision of the cross associated with the inscription “in hoc signo vinces” (in this sign you will win) that will lead to the Edict of Milan in the year 313.
Average visit time: 2 h
Combined ticket to visit the Colosseum and the Roman Forum
Tickets: Adults: € 12; Reduced: € 7.50
Temples to see
The Roman Forum is one of the most magnificent archaeological sites in Rome; in antiquity it was the center of life in imperial Rome where commercial, administrative, juridical and religious functions were accentuated.
The Via Sacra is the road that crosses it from east to west and here, returning from their triumphal war campaigns, the endless processions of victorious generals were celebrated.
Arc of Titus
The Arch of Titus is the oldest of the three arches remaining on the Roman Forum and was built between the year AD 81 and the year AD 100 by the will of the Roman Senate (as reported on the words “S.P.Q.R.”, Senatus Populus Que Romanus), to commemorate the seizure of Jerusalem over Jewish zealots by the emperor Titus who had conquered, in AD 70.
The high arch m. 15.40, wide m. 13.50 and deep m. 4.70, is at the highest point of the Via Sacra and is covered with Greek Pentelic marble and supported by four semi-columns on the four sides; the archway is high m. 8.30 and wide m. 5.36.
Inside the arch there are two panels with reliefs. One depicts the triumphal procession with the loot taken from the Second Temple of Jerusalem, the other shows Titus on a chariot accompanied by the goddess Vittoria and the goddess Rome.
Temple of Venus and Rome
Designed by Emperor Hadrian in AD 135, this temple is impressive in size, 100 by 145 meters. It was dedicated to Rome, the personification of the city is Venus, mother of Aeneas. The building contained two cells (sanctuaries) with statues of goddesses, each located on one side of the temple. The part of the cell dedicated to Rome is still standing today.
Clearly ellenizing, the huge building was flanked on the long sides by a double portico of gray granite columns, on which the two propylaea opened at the center, while on the short sides it was connected with stairways to the Colosseum square and the Forum.
The central nucleus had two abutting apses, in which the statues of Venus (towards the Colosseum) and Rome (towards the Roman Forum) were respectively located.
House of the Vestals
The House of the Vestal Virgins was the residence of priestesses in charge of keeping the sacred flame of the Temple of Vesta always lit, symbol of the eternal life of Rome. The Virgins guarding the flame were chosen by the Supreme Pontiff, the supreme religious authority of the State. The six girls, only aristocrats, enjoyed many advantages and as soon as they were chosen (at the age of six), they would have moved here. Spread over three floors, the large house had about fifty rooms for the six girls and their assistants.
The prestigious service of the Vestals lasted thirty years and during that period they had to remain virgins. In the event that the vow of chastity had failed, the vestal would have been buried alive on the Quirinale, since it could not shed blood.
Temple of Vesta
In 12 BC when Augustus became the Maximum Pontiff, he gave the vestals the ancient houses of the Pontiff and of the Rex Sacrorum, which were incorporated into the Atrium Vestae
The current building is built with bricks and is the result of a long series of transformations. What we can see today, is the temple after its last restoration, performed by Septimius Severus’ wife, Giulia Domna, in 191 AD.
It consists of a concrete marble-covered podium with Corinthian columns. Inside the cell, which was also circular, the sacred fire burned, while the center of the conical roof had to be opened for the smoke to escape.
A problematic is the identification of the Penus Vestae, or the Sancta Sanctorum of the temple, to which access was forbidden to anyone.
It was a place where there were preserved sacred objects brought by Aeneas during the escape from the Trojan war.
Basilica of Maxentius
It is well known that the Roman basilicas served for various public and administrative functions. The construction of the last of the great basilicas was started by Emperor Maxentius in AD 308, after his defeat suffered by Constantine who then finished it.
It measured 100 meters by 65 meters, 35 meters high. It consisted of a large central nave with enormous Corinthian columns and two smaller side aisles. Typologically, the building has exploited different characteristics of Roman architecture reinterpreting them and harmonizing them in a whole original and successful structural. The enormous potential offered by the extreme sophistication of Roman Imperial construction techniques was exploited to create the largest building covered by a system of vaults in the entire empire.
Antoninus and Faustina Temple
The Temple was built in AD 141 by the Emperor Antoninus Pius to honor his late wife Faustina. Twenty years after the death of the Emperor, the temple was consecrated to both Antoninus and Faustina. In the seventh century it was transformed into the church of San Lorenzo in Miranda. The church was rebuilt in 1601.
The existing remains consist of portions of the wall of the peperino cell, built into the walls of the church, which extends 20 meters to the northwest and 15 to the southwest;
The columns of the pronaos, which are free from the church with the exception of the two closest to the doors; the lintel and the frieze of the façade and the sides up to the cell wall extend, but only a small part of the cornice.
The entire temple was covered with marble slabs, which disappeared. The frieze on either side of the temple was beautifully carved in relief with garlands, sacrificial tools and griffins.
The Curia Julia was the place where the Senate met in assembly. The rectangular building could hold up to two hundred senators. The Curia was burnt four times, the current building was built in AD 283 by Diocletian.
The building owes its name to the assemblies of the “Curiati”, the citizens weighted according to the census, which took place in the Comitium. The building that took the name of Curia Julia, and is still visible today, was completed and inaugurated by Augustus in 29 BC.
In AD 630, during the pontificate of Pope Honorius I, the building was transformed into a church, taking the name of Sant’Adriano al Foro. The church was decorated with Byzantine frescoes, still partly visible, and equipped with a bell tower. Thanks to these vicissitudes, the Curia was not demolished and today is one of the late-ancient buildings better preserved throughout Rome.
Temple of Saturn
The Temple to the cult of Saturn, built during the last years of the Etruscan kingdom, also housed the public treasury and the headquarters of the quaestors. It was the oldest temple ever recorded and it was inaugurated at the beginning of the Republic in 497 BC. A high column, the Golden Milestone, was placed in front of the Temple of Augustus. All distances from Rome were measured from this column.
The tympanum supported statues of tritons blowing the trumpets; the structure of the building was in tufa covered with marble. It was 22.5 meters wide and 40 meters long and stood on a high podium. The front staircase has disappeared.
Temple of Vespasian and Titus
Only three Corinthian columns of 14.2 m. of height remain of the Temple of Vespasian and of Titus at the western end of the Roman Forum, two front and one on the right side. The construction was started by Titus in the first century AD. in honor of his father, the deified Vespasian. Domitian, brother and successor of Titus, completed the structure, now dedicated to both Titus and Vespasian.
History of the Temple of Vespasian and Titus
The Temple of Vespasian and Titus was restored in the early AD 200 by Septimius Severus and Caracalla, who recorded their work in an inscription on the architrave. The Temple is located at the western end of the Roman Forum, crammed into a small space between the Temple of Concordia and the Temple of Saturn. It is built in the Corinthian order of Italian white marble.
The lintel on the front bears a part of the inscription of the 3rd century that records the restoration: “[R] ESTITUER.” The trabeation on the side is carved with an elaborate and interesting relief of bulls skulls alternating with instruments of sacrifice as knives and pitchers.
Septimius Severus Arch
The Arch of Septimius Severus, erected in AD 203, commemorates the Roman victories on the Parthians in the last decade of the 2nd century AD. The triple triumphal arch was one of the most richly decorated and even today, although badly damaged, stands in the Roman Forum as a lasting and impressive monument.
The arch is located on the Via Sacra, the great central arch was used for traffic, while the two external arches were closed by steps. The whole is covered with procornesi marble as the eight columns composed, four on each façade.
The inscription on the attic is a dedication to Septimius Severus and his two sons Caracalla and Geta who “restored the Republic and enlarged the dominion of the Roman people”. It is interesting to note that the inscription was modified following the murder of Geta by his brother Caracalla in AD 212.
The most interesting sculpture is found on four huge panels – two on each façade – that show scenes of military campaigns in Parthia. At the top of the structure, as indicated in the coins of the period, once there would have been a chariot with six gilded bronze horses on which rode a statue of Septimius Severus.