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The Palatine Hill is the frontrunner of the Seven Hills of Rome. Previously, several emperors established their palaces on the Palatine. There were also several temples, including the Temple of Apollo and the Temple of Magna Mater.
Today, these temples are but ruins, nothing compared to how the monuments in their heyday must have been like. However, they are still impressive. The hill, although not much remains today, has a rich background with it and countless stories for the many interested.
The hill is about 40 meters high overlooking the Roman Forum. The Roman Forum is more popular, but the atmosphere in Palatine is particularly more relaxing and nature-oriented. There are also gardens like the Farnese Gardens and other comfortable spots.
Located on the Palatine was the hut of Romulus and his twin brother Remus. Legend has it, and excavations would somehow back this, that the rise of Rome as a military power began on the hill. Archaeological finds even suggest that people already lived there since 1000 BC. Meanwhile, according to Roman Mythology Romulus and Remus were found somewhere along the hill and were later raised by their foster parents. When they came to grow old, Romulus then began the foundation of Rome on this very site. Rome ultimately got its name from Romulus.
The hill was seen as a safe and secure haven because it is located somewhere higher than other places. People who were living on the hill rarely catch diseases. It was believed that when there were plagues among the working class who are at the foot of the hill, those who are living on it are isolated. Therefore, the place was seen with much regard because it is not only an ornate neighborhood for the imperial families, but it also provides some sense of comfort.
Augustus was born on the Palatine also. He was the first emperor to have built his residence on the hill. After him, all other emperors followed his lead that one time it was already filled with imperial palaces. The house of Augustus was a sober house with only two floors. Here, Augustus had a work room and a bedroom. For forty years, he lived in this house.
Next to the house of Augustus on the Palatine is Domus Augustana, of the emperor Domitian. This was the foremost residential place of emperors from the end of 1st to the 3rd centuries AD.
The Domus Augustana was a public wing. The public one was the Domus Flavia which was characterized by an expansive lawn, the Hippodrome of Domitian. This stage was about 160 meters long and was used for races with chariots.
There was also the complex built by order of Tiberius and has been used as a residence by the heirs of the emperors. It covered a large part of the west coast of the hill. Soon, most of the entire hill was owned by Cardinal Allessandro Farnese and many areas were covered by the gardens of the Farnese family.
The Farnese Gardens were built by order of the Farnese family in the 16th century. They were designed by Vignola and located on the northwestern part of the Palatine. A large portion of the garden is still intact.
Covering a large part of the western side of the Palatine is the Domus Tiberiana. In the 16th century, the palace was covered with the gardens owed by the Farnese family. The Domus Tiberiana was a complex on the Palatine Hill that was constructed as per ordered by Tiberius. It served as the residence of the emperors’ heirs.
The Secret Passage of Emperor Domitian
Emperor Titus Flavius Domitian did not just built a citadel on the Palatine Hill. He also constructed a secret passageway called “The Secret Passage of Emperor Domitian”. It connected the hill and the Roman Forum. The Secret Passage of Emperor Domitian was so huge that even horses can fit in and seamlessly walk along the hallway.
The gangway was first discovered in 1900. However, only a small portion of the corridor was exposed during this time. Further excavation had unearthed the entire passageway. To help preserve this historical jewel, a restoration project was carried out in 2009. The project was completed six years after and in Octover 2015, the newly refurbished secret corridor was opened to the public.
If you want to know more about the rich history of the Palatine Hill, you should not skip visiting the Museum of the Palatine. This historical museum was founded in 1882 by Napoleon III, a French Emperor. At the Museum of the Palatine, you will learn about the interesting facts regarding the hill and see the archaeological discoveries found during the excavations.
The best way to get to the Palatine Hill is to travel via Metro line B and get off at Circo Massimo. From here you can walk past the famous Circus Maximus. Continue walking towards the direction of the Colosseum. The Palatine is located before the Colosseum.
The combiticket which includes Colosseum and Forum Romanum as well can be bought at the gates or by e-ticket. Altough the waiting queue is slightly shorter then the one at the Colosseum, I still recomend to get your tickets upfront.