Images for ALRI Ancient Rome Unit 1
Approaching Rome

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Rome conquered and assimilated its neighbors, and the process worked for them for almost 1000 years.
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What are we doing in this course?
Before Rome was Rome, the Italian peninsula was divided among several language groups, some of which contributed to the development of Latin.  Latin took its name from the tribes of Latium, the area which contains Rome.
The bronze age terramare culture in northern Italy has often been considered the first well organized urban culture in Italy.  The Terramare town was planned on a basis similar to later Etruscan and Roman fortress towns.
The iron age Villanovan culture displaced the Terramare culture.  The Villanovans appeared as the third wave of trans-Alpine arrivals and have much in common with the Hallstatt culture of the French Alps.  "Ages" (like "stone", "copper", "bronze", and "iron") are named for the materials used to make tools and weapons.  The artifacts in the third image, above, are bronze, but they were  probably made using iron tools.  Some experts consider the Villanovan to be an early stage of the Etruscan culture.
The vast majority of the remains of the Etruscan civilization were found in Etruscan tombs.  The Romans destroyed or overbuilt most of their cities.  Nonetheless, we know a great deal about how the upper levels of their society lived because of what was left in their tombs.  The main repositories for Etruscan grave goods are the Vatican Etruscan Museum and the National Etruscan Museum in the Villa Giulia in Rome.  There are also smaller museums at some of the Etruscan archeological sites in Italy.
Etruscan bronze art tended to be stylized with attenuated figures of people and animals.  Terracotta artwork, on the other hand, was very naturalistic as seen in the winged horses in the second image and in the funerary terracottas above.
The Etruscans were justly famed for their gold jewelery and particularly for the intricacy of their gold granulation.
The Lapis Niger cippus is under the black stone surface in front of the Curia in the Roman republican forum.  It marks the site which ancient Romans venerated as the site of the tomb of Romulus.  The truncated stone is covered with the oldest known monumental Latin inscription.  For more information on the Lapis Niger and the supposed grave of Romulus, see and
The earliest known proto-Latin writing is on the "Duenos" kernos  found on Rome's Quirinale Hill  in 1880.  A kernos is a circular arrangement of vases or jugs (in this case three jugs) molded together.  Duenos is one of the words in the inscription and is an early version of the word bonus = good.  The second image shows the development of the Latin alphabet, and the third shows the Praenestina fibula with its forged inscription.  The fibula may be older than the Duenos inscription, but the writing on the fibula is a later forgery.
In the 4th and 3rd centuries BC the Greek colonies on the southern Italian coasts and on Sicily were threatened by both the Romans and the Carthaginians (who, at this point were in a long standing alliance).  The Greeks hired a notable mercenary general, Pyrrhus of Epirus, to fight off their predatory neighbors.  Pyrrhus used trained Indian elephants and won all the battles, but lost the war because of high casualty rates among his forces.  The Carthaginians, later used smaller North African elephants against the Romans -- war broke out between the former allies over possession of the Greek cities on Sicily.  The Romans eventually won their "Punic" wars against Carthage -- also by attrition. The Punic wars are the subject of Unit 4 of this course.  For more on Pyrrhus, see  and (Plutarch)
The ancient temple of Fortuna at Praeneste was rebuilt on a much grander scale in 80 BC.  The town and temple became a resort for the ancient Romans during Rome's imperial phase and the temple's architecture was the prototype for many Roman hillside villas both in the ancient period and during the renaissance.  The Temple was eventually seized
, during the renaissance, by the Colonna family who rebuilt it again as a country house.  After several destructions and rebuildings, the Colonna sold it to the Barberini family and it became a "casino" (summer retreat) for Pope Urban VIII Barberini.  The main salon  of the casino holds the famous "Nile Mosaic", which the Barberini had removed to their palazzo in Rome.  It was restored to Palestrina (Praeneste) in 1953. For more on the Nile Mosaic, see  For a Lego version of the Temple (with links to other Lego ancient sites) see
One of the finest Roman marble portrait statues is that of Augustus Caesar, which was discovered on April 20, 1863 in the Villa of Livia at Prima Porta, near Rome. His wife Livia Drusilla retired to the villa after his death. The sculpture is now displayed in the Braccio Nuovo of the Vatican Museums.  It is a copy of a bronze (or gold and bronze) statue that was erected in Rome by the Senate to honor Augustus.  Both the metal statue and the marble one would have been painted
naturalistically.  The second image is another copy, on display at the Getty Museum in Santa Barbara California, which has some of the color restored.  In the third image I have added flesh tones to the second image to give an idea of how the original statue may have looked.
Part of the spoils of the conquest of Antony and Cleopatra by Augustus was a large Egyptian Obelisk looted from Heliopolis. (The Romans became great collectors of Egyptian stuff and that's why there are more Egyptian obelisks in Rome (13) than remain in Egypt. Augustus set up his prize in the Campus Martius as the gnomen of a giant sundial.  it was arranged so that the shadow of the gnomen fell on his Ara Pacis (altar of peace) right at sunset on his birthday, September 23.
Ancient Romans worshiped their ancestors and upper class Romans made wax masks (called imagines) of any famous ancestors.  The masks were kept in a special cabinet in the the atrium of their Roman domus and were displayed before visitors and worn in ceremonial processions.  The wax masks deteriorated over the centuries, but we do have a few statues showing patricians holding imagines. 
Although there is definite family resemblance, the individuality of the masks points to portraiture.
Without a doubt, the Colosseum is the most recognizable Roman ruin. It was known in ancient times as the Amphitheatrum Flavium and didn't acquire the Colosseum name until much later -- tenth century AD according to some authorities.  The name Colosseum is usually thought to refer to the colossal statue of Nero/Apollo/Constantine (at various stages) that stood nearby. The Rome Colosseum is the biggest amphitheater built in ancient times.  "Amphitheater" is an ancient portmanteau word that fuses "ambi" (both sides) and "theatrum".  The first known stone amphitheater was in Pompeii (where it can be seen today, only having required minimal restoration after excavation), but earlier wooden structures were built in Rome -- and then were disassembled after the games (ludi circenses) were finished.  The first known and most remarkable of the wooden amphitheaters in Rome was built by Caius Scribonius Curio.  Each side pivoted separately;  it opened and closed with the audience aboard.  For more informationon the Colosseum, see and  And for information on Curio's architectural wonder, see
Stone triumphal arches were built well after the triumphs which they commemorated and replaced wooden arches which spanned the routes of triumphal processions.  The arch of Titus, pictured, was badly dilapidated (
literally, many stones missing) until it was  restored during the pontificate of Pope Pius VII by Giuseppe Valadier in 1821.
Marcus Agrippa, the erstwhile General/Admiral, and commander in Chief of the forces of Augustus in the wars that put him in power, then became the chief contractor/builder of Augustine Rome.  He built Rome's first Pantheon, which was not sacred to all the gods of Rome but rather to all the gods associated with the "Julian" family of Augustus.  That structure occupied just the front porch of the current structure which was build by Hadrian.  Hadrian's pantheon is still the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world.  One of the most remarkable facts about the Pantheon is that it was made with one continuous pour of concrete.  For more information about the Pantheon, see  Jefferson designed the Rotunda (Library) at the University of Virginia to emulate the pantheon, and if you go down Constitution Avenue in Washington DC you can see several buildings with domes modeled on the Rome Pantheon dome..
The Latin word insula meant island, but it also meant an apartment block (except in Pompeii and surrounding towns, where archeologists inexplicably called every city block and insula).  These are apartment block insulae.  Most Romans lived in apartment insulae.  The insula in the third image is thought to be a specialized apartment hotel for merchants doing temporary business in Rome's port, Ostia.
Anyone who accumulated enough money would buy a domus.  If there was room, expansion was always a possibility as owner became more wealthy -- or a bigger domus might be bought or two (or more) adjoining domi might be combined into a McDomus.
The biggest domus in Rome:  Domitian expanded the palace on he Palatine adding the large section to the right of the internal horse ring.  To do this, he had to extend the side of the hill by building large vaulted structures to support his new buildings.
Rural villas -- working farms with quarters for the owner -- could be quite plush (first image) or very simple (second).
Really rich folks might also own a suburban villa in addition to their big domus in the city. 

Some "suburban" villas, like the Villa of the Mysteries outside Pompeii were palatial, although they still might be agricultural centers; the Villa of the Mysteries, for example, included a large winery and the owners probably owned Vesuvian vineyards.
The biggest known suburban villa was the Villa Adrian in Tiburtina (modern Tivoli) in the hills east of Rome,  The model of Hadrian's villa, in the first image, shows that it was more like a small town than a country house. on fact, recent excavations have uncovered more buildings to the upper right of the (i.e., southwest) of the model and site plan (-- both the model and plan have North to the bottom).  The second image shows Roman style villas in other parts of the empire and Mt. Vernon and Monticello, two 18th century Virginia estates modeled on large Roman villas.
Location! Location! Location! Central Mediterranean -- notice the small pinch point between Sicily and Tunisia.  Whoever controls Sicily controls trade between the aestern and western ends of the Med. This, of course, is what the Punic Wars were about.  Sicily and Sardinia also eventually be came bones of contention between the Romans and Carthaginians.  But before any of that could happen, Rome had to take over everything to its south on the Italian peninsula itself.
Rome sits in a low gap in the volcanic tuffa hills that, milenia ago, was eroded by what became the Tiber River -- note the two big crater lakes, Lago Bracciano to the northwest and Lago Albano to the southeast of Rome.   According to ancient Roman legend, Romulus and Remus floated down the Anio River from the Alban hills and then into the Tiber and were found at the sight where Romulus later founded Rome.  Rome is as far up the Tiber as small Roman ships could go.
The center of government, business and social activity of ancient Rome and of tourist activity in modern Rome, the forums are the largest active archeological dig in the world.
A model showing the Roman forums at the time of Constantine (ca.320 AD).
The boundaries of ancient Rome were defined by defensive ramparts and walls, although it sometimes took some time for the walls to catch up with the expansion of the boundaries -- i.e., the "pomeria" or sacred boundaries might expand, but the walls might be built later in response to a perceived threat.  The smallest and earliest defensive works surrounded the small part of the Palatine where the first settlement was defined by Romulus (753 BC).  The largest set of walls, still standing today, are the Aurelian walls.

The Aurelian walls were started by Aurelian in 271 AD in response to temporary barbarian successes in northern Italy and finished by his successor, Probus, in 275 AD.  They were doubled in height and thickness by Maxentius from 306 to 312 AD in response to the looming threat of the arrival his rival, Constantine.  Maxentius then made the silly decision to march his legions out of the well fortified city to Saxa Rubra, several miles to the north of Rome, where he was roundly defeated.  In his retreat back to Rome, his remaining forces were caught at the bottleneck of the Milvian Bridge where they and Max were wiped out.  This was a trivial event, but it had major and well known historical ramifications. 

(Modern military strategists disagree on whether Maxentius really would have been able to defend the walled city against the hardened troops that Constantine had marched down from England.  More on this in a later unit.)
Rome was built on seven hills.  Three of them were free standing (and were called "monti", i.e., hills) and four were were the result of water erosion of the higher area to the east (and were called "colli", i.e., ridges).  The first stage of the "Severan" walls did not include the Aventine hill, and throughout the ancient period, the Aventine was considered to be outside the pomeria and a place where foreigners could live and build their temples.  The campus martius was also outside the pomeria and, as its name states, it was the location of military musters and demobilizations.
The Italian National Museum in the remains of the Baths of Diocletian displays this model based on archeological remains on the Palatine hill that date from the supposed time of Romulus (mid-8th century BC.  The actual dig on the Palatine can be seen today, but work is still under way and the dig site is fragile, so tourists can not actually enter the fenced-in site.  The whole story of Romulus and Remus and the founding of Rome did not become the canonical Roman founding myth until the the time of Augustus when Virgil wrote his Aeneid to glorify the Julian gens, but this particular legend undoubtedly was floated long before then.  For a short run through of Rome's founding myth according to Virgil, see
The Palatine and Capitolie hills during the Republic and a wider view of the republican city.
Annotated photos of parts of a tourist map of ancient Rome.