Palatine Hill – Italy

The most famous of Rome’s seven hills is Palatine Hill.  In its immediate vicinity are the Circus Maximus, the Coliseum, and the Roman Forum.  Archaeological evidence suggests people lived here as far back as the 10th Century BC.

According to Roman mythology, this is the spot where the she-wolf came across Romulus and Remus (in a cave on the hill referred to as “Lupercal Cave”).  Consequently, it was considered by the Romans to be the location where the city was first founded.

Did You Know?

Palatine Hill rises 230 feet above the city and offers some of the more spectacular views of Rome.  As a result, this became the fashionable place to live during the height of the Empire. Augustus was most likely born here.  Cicero lived here, as did Marc Antony. Emperors regularly built their imperial palaces – and at one point, the location would have been covered with royal residences.  In fact, the word “palace” comes from “Palatine Hill”.

In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church’s influence on the hill really began to take hold. Churches and convents began to populate the area.  Around 1550, a Roman Catholic Cardinal by the name of Allesandro Farnese acquired most of the area. He set up Europe’s first Botanical Garden atop many of the ruins.

A number of important ruins can still be seen when visiting Palatine Hill:

  • Three Iron Age Huts have been found that date back as far as the 10th Century BC.
  • The platform of the Auguratorium can still be seen – this is where diviners would have practiced their craft by observing the flight of birds or by observing human entrails (next to this can be seen the platform of a Temple dedicated to a Roman goddess named Magna Mater (the “Great Mother”; in Greek, “Cybele” was her name).
  • Tiberius acquired property on the Palatine and turned it into a palace, Domus Tiberiana.  Caligula and then Nero would add onto this palace during their reigns.  It should be noted that a number of underground passageways were built over the years to allow for the free flow of servants, guards, and commodities.  Today, the Farnese Botanical Garden resides over most of Domus Tiberiana.

There is good reason to believe that Nero sentenced both Paul and Peter to death while in residence on the Palatine Hill at Domus Tiberiana.

  • Emperor Domitian had Domus Flavia constructed – a palace with an elaborate set of halls, columned porches, gardens and fountains.  Domus Flavia was also called “Domus Augustana (or the “Emperor’s Palace).
  • Emperor Septimus Severus built Domus Severiana with large baths and terraces.