Palatine Hill

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The Palatine Hill
One of the seven hills of Rome
Latin nameCollis Palatinus
Italian namePalatino
Rione Campitelli
Buildings Flavian Palace
People Cicero, Augustus, Tiberius, Domitian
EventsFinding of Romulus and Remus
Ancient Roman religion Temple of Apollo Palatinus, Temple of Cybele, Lupercalia, Secular Games
Mythological figures Romulus and Remus, Faustulus
View of the Palatine Hill from across the Circus Maximus. Palatine Hill from across the Circus Maximus April 2019.jpg
View of the Palatine Hill from across the Circus Maximus.
A schematic map of Rome showing the seven hills and the Servian Wall Seven Hills of Rome.svg
A schematic map of Rome showing the seven hills and the Servian Wall
Plan of the Palatine EB1911 Rome - Plan of the Palatine.jpg
Plan of the Palatine
Palaces on the Palatine Palatin-legende.jpg
Palaces on the Palatine
Palatine Hill from Colosseum Palatine Hill from Colosseum 2011 1.jpg
Palatine Hill from Colosseum
Massive retaining walls extended the area on the Palatine available for the Imperial building complex. Palatineterracing.jpg
Massive retaining walls extended the area on the Palatine available for the Imperial building complex.

The Palatine Hill, ( /ˈpælətn/ ; Latin : Collis Palatium or Mons Palatinus; Italian : Palatino [palaˈtiːno] ) which is the centremost of the Seven Hills of Rome, is one of the most ancient parts of the city and has been called "the first nucleus of the Roman Empire." [1] It stands 40 metres [2] above the Roman Forum, looking down upon it on one side, and upon the Circus Maximus on the other. From the time of Augustus Imperial palaces were built here. Prior to extensions to the Palace of Tiberius and the construction of the Domus Augustana by Domitian, 81-96 AD, the hill was mostly occupied by the houses of the rich. The perimeter measures 2,182 meters and the area is 255,801 square meters or 63 acres, with a circumference of 1,740 meters while the Regionary Catalogues of the fourth century give a perimeter of 11,510 feet or 3,402 meters (equals 131 acres. [3]

Italian language Romance language

Italian is a Romance language of the Indo-European language family. Italian descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, and together with Sardinian, is by most measures the closest language to it of the Romance languages. Italian is an official language in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino and Vatican City. It has an official minority status in western Istria. It formerly had official status in Albania, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro (Kotor) and Greece, and is generally understood in Corsica and Savoie. It also used to be an official language in the former Italian East Africa and Italian North Africa, where it still plays a significant role in various sectors. Italian is also spoken by large expatriate communities in the Americas and Australia. Italian is included under the languages covered by the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Romania, although Italian is neither a co-official nor a regional or a traditional language in these countries, where Italians do not represent a historical minority. In the case of Romania, Italian is listed by the Government along 10 other languages which supposedly receive a "general protection", but not between those which should be granted an "advanced or enhanced" one. Many speakers of Italian are native bilinguals of both Italian and other regional languages.

Roman Empire Period of Imperial Rome following the Roman Republic (27 BC–476 AD)

The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of ancient Rome, consisting of large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean sea in Europe, North Africa and West Asia ruled by emperors. From the accession of Caesar Augustus to the military anarchy of the third century, it was a principate with Italy as metropole of the provinces and its city of Rome as sole capital. The Roman Empire was then ruled by multiple emperors and divided in a Western Roman Empire, based in Milan and later Ravenna, and an Eastern Roman Empire, based in Nicomedia and later Constantinople. Rome remained the nominal capital of both parts until 476 AD, when it sent the imperial insignia to Constantinople following the capture of Ravenna by the barbarians of Odoacer and the subsequent deposition of Romulus Augustus. The fall of the Western Roman Empire to Germanic kings, along with the hellenization of the Eastern Roman Empire into the Byzantine Empire, is conventionally used to mark the end of Ancient Rome and the beginning of the Middle Ages.

Roman Forum Archaeological site in Rome, Italy

The Roman Forum, also known by its Latin name Forum Romanum, is a rectangular forum (plaza) surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient government buildings at the center of the city of Rome. Citizens of the ancient city referred to this space, originally a marketplace, as the Forum Magnum, or simply the Forum.


The hill is the etymological origin of the word palace and its cognates in other languages (Greek: παλάτιον, Italian : palazzo, French : palais, Spanish: palacio, Portuguese: palácio, German : Palast, Czech : palác, etc.). [lower-alpha 1]

Etymology Study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time

Etymology is the study of the history of words. By extension, the term "the etymology " means the origin of the particular word and for place names, there is a specific term, toponymy.

Palace grand residence, especially a royal residence or the home of a head of state

A palace is a grand residence, especially a royal residence, or the home of a head of state or some other high-ranking dignitary, such as a bishop or archbishop.

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Derivative terms

The term palace , from Old French palais or paleis, stems ultimately from the proper name of Palatine Hill. [4]

The Palatine Hill is also the etymological origin (via the Latin adjective palatinus ) of "palatine", a 16th century English adjective that originally signified something pertaining to the Caesar's palace, or someone who is invested with the king's authority. Later its use shifted to a reference to the German Palatinate. [5] The office of the German count palatine (Pfalzgraf) had its origins in the comes palatinus, an earlier office in Merovingian and Carolingian times. [6]

A palatine or palatinus is a high-level official attached to imperial or royal courts in Europe since Roman times. The term palatinus was first used in Ancient Rome for chamberlains of the Emperor due to their association with the Palatine Hill. The imperial palace guard, after the rise of Constantine I, were also called the Scholae Palatinae for the same reason. In the Early Middle Ages the title became attached to courts beyond the imperial one; one of the highest level of officials in the papal administration were called the judices palatini. Later the Merovingian and Carolingian dynasties had counts palatine, as did the Holy Roman Empire. Related titles were used in Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, the German Empire, and the Duchy of Burgundy, while England, Ireland, and parts of British North America referred to rulers of counties palatine as palatines.

Count palatine is a high noble title, used to render several comital styles, in some cases also shortened to Palatine, which can have other meanings as well.

Another modern English word "paladin", came into usage to refer to any distinguished knight (especially one of the Twelve Peers of Charlemagne) under Charlemagne in late renditions of Matter of France. [lower-alpha 2] [7]

The Matter of France, also known as the Carolingian cycle, is a body of literature and legendary material associated with the history of France, in particular involving Charlemagne and his associates. The cycle springs from the Old French chansons de geste, and was later adapted into a variety of art forms, including Renaissance epics and operas. Together with the Matter of Britain, which concerned King Arthur, and the Matter of Rome, comprising material derived from and inspired by classical mythology, it was one of the great literary cycles that figured repeatedly in medieval literature.


According to Livy [8] (59 BC AD 17) the Palatine hill got its name from the Arcadian settlement of Pallantium. More likely, it is derived from the noun palātum "palate"; Ennius uses it once for the "heaven", and it may be connected with the Etruscan word for sky, falad. [9]

Livy Roman historian

Titus Livius – simply rendered as Livy in English – was a Roman historian. He wrote a monumental history of Rome and the Roman people – Ab Urbe Condita Libri – covering the period from the earliest legends of Rome before the traditional foundation in 753 BC through the reign of Augustus in Livy's own lifetime. He was on familiar terms with members of the Julio-Claudian dynasty and even in friendship with Augustus, whose young grandnephew, the future emperor Claudius, he exhorted to take up the writing of history.

Arcadia Regional unit in Peloponnese, Greece

Arcadia is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the administrative region of Peloponnese. It is situated in the central and eastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula. It takes its name from the mythological figure Arcas. In Greek mythology, it was the home of the god Pan. In European Renaissance arts, Arcadia was celebrated as an unspoiled, harmonious wilderness.

Pallantium was an ancient city near the Tiber river on the Italian peninsula. Roman mythology, as recounted in Virgil's Aeneid for example, states that the city was founded by Evander of Pallene and other ancient Greeks sometime previous to the Trojan War. In addition, Dionysius of Halicarnassus writes that Romans say that the city was founded by Greeks from Pallantium of Arcadia, about sixty years before the Trojan war and the leader was Evander. The myth of the city's origin was significant in ancient Roman mythology because Pallantium became one of the cities that was merged later into ancient Rome, thereby tying Rome's origins to the ancient Greek heroes. Other cities in the area were founded by various Italic tribes.


According to Roman mythology, the Palatine Hill was the location of the cave, known as the Lupercal, where Romulus and Remus were found by the she-wolf Lupa that kept them alive.

Another legend occurring on the Palatine is Hercules' defeat of Cacus after the monster had stolen some cattle. Hercules struck Cacus with his characteristic club so hard that it formed a cleft on the southeast corner of the hill, where later a staircase bearing the name of Cacus was constructed. [10]


Rome has its origins on the Palatine. Excavations show that people have lived in the area since the 10th century BC. [ citation needed ] Excavations performed on the hill in 1907 and again in 1948 unearthed a collection of huts believed to have been used for funerary purposes between the 9th and 7th century BC approximating the time period when the city of Rome was founded. [11]

According to Livy, after the immigration of the Sabines and the Albans to Rome, the original Romans lived on the Palatine. [12] The Palatine Hill was also the site of the ancient festival of the Lupercalia.

Many affluent Romans of the Republican period (c.509 BC 44 BC) had their residences there.

From the start of the Empire (27 BC) Augustus built his palace there and the hill gradually became the exclusive domain of emperors; the ruins of the palaces of at least Augustus (27 BC 14 AD), Tiberius (14 37 AD) and Domitian (81 96 AD) can still be seen.

Augustus also built a temple to Apollo here.

The great fire of 64 AD destroyed Nero's palace, but he replaced it by 69 AD with the even larger Domus Aurea over which was built Domitian's Palace [13]


The Palatine Hill is an archaeological site open to the public (requires payment).

The Palace of Domitian which dominates the site and looks out over the Circus Maximus was rebuilt largely during the reign of Domitian over earlier buildings of Nero.

Later emperors particularly the Severans made significant additions to the buildings.

Houses of Livia and Augustus

plan of Domus Livia Domus-livia-palatine-plan.png
plan of Domus Livia

The House of Livia, the wife of Augustus, is conventionally attributed to her based only on the generic name on a clay pipe and circumstantial factors such as proximity to the House of Augustus. [14]

The building is located near the Temple of Magna Mater at the western end of the hill, on a lower terrace from the temple. It is notable for its beautiful frescoes.

Fresco of the tablinium of the House of Livia Detail of wall painting on the back wall of the tablinum of the House of Livia, the large mythological picture in the middle depicting Polyphemus and Galatea is now totally illegible, House of Livia, Palatine Hill, Rome (20871021860).jpg
Fresco of the tablinium of the House of Livia

The Palace of Domitian

Water garden of the Domus Augustana Water garden of the Domus Augustiana.jpg
Water garden of the Domus Augustana

Domus Severiana


Temple of Cybele

Temple of Apollo Palatinus

House of Tiberius

The House of Tiberius was built by Tiberius, but Tiberius spent much of his time in his palaces in Campania and Capri. It was later incorporated into Nero's Domus Transitoria. [15] Part of it is remains in the current Farnese Gardens.


During Augustus' reign, an area of the Palatine Hill was roped off for a sort of archaeological expedition, which found fragments of Bronze Age pots and tools. He declared this site the "original town of Rome." Modern archaeology has identified evidence of Bronze Age settlement in the area which predates Rome's founding. There is a museum on the Palatine in which artifacts dating from before the official foundation of the City are displayed. The museum also contains Roman statuary.

An altar to an unknown deity, once thought to be Aius Locutius, was discovered here in 1820.

In July 2006, archaeologists announced the discovery of the Palatine House, which they believe to be the birthplace of Rome's first Emperor, Augustus. [16] Head archaeologist Clementina Panella uncovered a section of corridor and other fragments under Rome's Palatine Hill, which she described on July 20 as "a very ancient aristocratic house." The two story house appears to have been built around an atrium, with frescoed walls and mosaic flooring, and is situated on the slope of the Palatine that overlooks the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine. The Republican-era houses on the Palatine were overbuilt by later palaces after the Great Fire of Rome (64), but apparently this one was not; the tempting early inference is that it was preserved for a specific and important reason. On the ground floor, three shops opened onto the Via Sacra.

The location of the domus is important because of its potential proximity to the Curiae Veteres, the earliest shrine of the curies of Rome. [17]

The photo of the excavated cave beneath the Domus Livia on the Palatine Hill, believed to be the Lupercal. The photo was taken with a remote sensing device. Lupercal grotto.jpg
The photo of the excavated cave beneath the Domus Livia on the Palatine Hill, believed to be the Lupercal. The photo was taken with a remote sensing device.

In January 2007, Italian archeologist Irene Iacopi announced that she had probably found the legendary Lupercal cave beneath the remains of Augustus' residence, the Domus Livia (House of Livia) on the Palatine. Archaeologists came across the 16-metre-deep cavity while working to restore the decaying palace. The first photos of the cave show a richly decorated vault encrusted with mosaics and seashells. The Lupercal was probably converted to a sanctuary by Romans in later centuries. [18]

In November 2007 archaeologists unveiled photographs of the cave. Partially collapsed and decorated with seashells and colored marble, the vaulted sanctuary is buried 16 metres inside the Palatine hill. A white eagle was found atop the sanctuary's vault. Most of the sanctuary is collapsed or filled with earth, but laser scans allowed experts to estimate that the circular structure has a height of 8 metres and a diameter of 7.3 metres. Adriano La Regina (former Rome’s archaeological superintendent 1976–2004, professor of Etruscology at Rome’s La Sapienza University), [19] Prof. Fausto Zevi (professor of Roman Archaeology at Rome's La Sapienza University) [20] and Prof. Henner von Hesberg (head of the German Archaeological Institute, Rome) [21] denied the identification of the grotto with Lupercal on topographic and stylistic grounds. They concluded that the grotto is actually a nymphaeum or underground triclinium from Neronian times.

See also

Explanatory notes

  1. The different spellings originate from the different languages that used the title throughout the ages (a phenomenon called lenition).
  2. This word came into use after an obsolete English "palasin" (from OF palaisin) came into disuse.

Related Research Articles


Lupercalia was an ancient, possibly pre-Roman pastoral annual festival, observed in the city of Rome between February 13 and February 15, to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility. Lupercalia was also called dies Februatus, after the instruments of purification called februa, which gave February (Februarius) its name.

Lupercal cave

The Lupercal was a cave at the southwest foot of the Palatine Hill in Rome, located somewhere between the temple of Magna Mater and the Sant'Anastasia al Palatino. In the legend of the founding of Rome, Romulus and Remus were found there by the she-wolf who suckled them until they were rescued by the shepherd Faustulus. Luperci, the priests of Faunus, celebrated certain ceremonies of the Lupercalia at the cave, from the earliest days of the City until at least 494 AD.

Tiberius 2nd Emperor of Ancient Rome

Tiberius was the second Roman emperor, reigning from 14 AD to 37 AD, succeeding Augustus.

Livia Roman empress

Livia Drusilla, also known as Julia Augusta after her formal adoption into the Julian family in AD 14, was the wife of the Roman emperor Augustus throughout his reign, as well as his adviser. She was the mother of the emperor Tiberius, paternal grandmother of the emperor Claudius, paternal great-grandmother of the emperor Caligula, and maternal great-great-grandmother of the emperor Nero. She was deified by Claudius who acknowledged her title of Augusta.

Tiberius Claudius Cogidubnus was a 1st-century king of the Regnenses or Regni tribe in early Roman Britain. The currently accepted preferred name is Togidubnus.

Tiberius Claudius Nero is the name of several ancient Roman men of the gens Claudia.

<i>Ficus Ruminalis</i>

The Ficus Ruminalis was a wild fig tree that had religious and mythological significance in ancient Rome. It stood near the small cave known as the Lupercal at the foot of the Palatine Hill and was the spot where according to tradition the floating makeshift cradle of Romulus and Remus landed on the banks of the Tiber. There they were nurtured by the she-wolf and discovered by Faustulus. The tree was sacred to Rumina, one of the birth and childhood deities, who protected breastfeeding in humans and animals. St. Augustine mentions a Jupiter Ruminus.

Rusellae Frazione in Tuscany, Italy

Rusellae, situated in the archaeological area of Roselle, was an important ancient town of Etruria, and subsequently of ancient Rome, which survived until the Middle Ages before being abandoned. The impressive remains lie near the modern frazione or village of Roselle in the comune of Grosseto.

Flavian Palace domus

The Flavian Palace, normally known as the Domus Flavia, is part of the vast residential complex of the Palace of Domitian on the Palatine Hill in Rome. It was completed in 92 AD by Emperor Titus Flavius Domitianus, and attributed to his master architect, Rabirius.

The Temple of Jupiter Stator was a sanctuary on the slope of the Capitoline Hill. In Roman legend, it was founded by King Romulus after he pledged to build it during a battle between the Roman army and that of the Sabines.

Temple of Apollo Palatinus ancient Roman temple on the Palatine Hill, Rome

The Temple of Apollo Palatinus was a temple on the Palatine Hill of ancient Rome, which was first dedicated by Augustus to his patron god Apollo. It was only the second temple in Rome dedicated to the god, after the Temple of Apollo Sosianus. It was sited next to the Temple of Cybele.

Temple of Divus Augustus building in Rome, Italy

The Temple of Divus Augustus was a major temple originally built to commemorate the deified first Roman emperor, Augustus. It was built between the Palatine and Capitoline Hills, behind the Basilica Julia, on the site of the house that Augustus had inhabited before he entered public life in the mid-1st century BC. It is known from Roman coinage that the temple was originally built to an Ionic hexastyle design. However, its size, physical proportions and exact site are unknown. Provincial temples of Augustus, such as the much smaller Temple of Augustus in Pula, now in Croatia, had already been constructed during his lifetime. Probably because of popular resistance to the notion, he was not officially deified in Rome until after his death, when a temple at Nola in Campania, where he died, seems to have been begun. Subsequently, temples were dedicated to him all over the Roman Empire.

House of Augustus domus

The House of Augustus, or the Domus Augusti, is the first major site upon entering the Palatine Hill in Rome, Italy. Historically, this house has been identified as the primary place of residence for the emperor Augustus. The Domus Augusti is located near the so-called Hut of Romulus and other sites that have connections to the foundation of Rome. This residence contained a complex of structures that were situated around the Temple of Apollo Palatinus.

Domus Augustana domus

The term Domus Augustana first appears in regard to a new palace built by Nero as attested to in an inscription made by Neo's freedman in charge of the curtains that separated one room from another. The palace stretched from the peak of the hill to ridge directly attached to and southeast of the Domus Augusti "as if it were an extension of the older strucurre" The name is not directly related to Augustus and should not be confused with the Domus Augusti. Domus Augustana is the modern name for the so-called domestic wing of the ancient and vast Roman Palace of Domitian on the Palatine Hill. The ancient sources epigraphical and literary always refer to the public and private parts of Domitian's palace as Domus Augustana only.

<i>Casa Romuli</i>

The Casa Romuli, also known as the tugurium Romuli, was the reputed dwelling-place of the legendary founder and first king of Rome, Romulus. It was situated on the south-western corner of the Palatine hill, where it slopes down towards the Circus Maximus, near the so-called "Steps of Cacus". It was a traditional single-roomed peasants' hut of the Latins, with straw roof and wattle-and-daub walls, such as are reproduced in miniature in the distinctive funerary urns of the so-called Latial culture.

The Palace of Domitian sits atop the Palatine Hill, and was built as Domitian's imperial palace. Designed by the architect, Rabirius, the Palace is a massive three-part structure, separated to allow business matters and private life to be conducted in parallel. The modern names used for these parts are:

Porticus of Livia

The Portico of Livia was a portico in Regio III Isis et Serapis of ancient Rome. It was built by Augustus in honour of his wife Livia Drusilla and is located on the Esquiline Hill. Although little of its structure survives now, it was one of the most prominent porticos in the ancient city. The so-called Ara Concordia was located either in or near to the portico.

Irene Iacopi is an Italian archaeologist.


  1. Charles Merivale, History of Rome to the Reign of Trajan (London and Toronto: J.M. Dent, 1928 [orig. 1910, first published 1875 as A General History of Rome from the Foundation of the City to the Fall of Augustulus], p. 5.
  2. Palatine Hill. (2007). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved August 25, 2007, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: Archived 2007-11-09 at the Wayback Machine
  3. The Atlas of Ancient Rome, Edited by Andrea Carandini, 2012, Vol. I p. 217 ISBN   978-0-691-16347-5
  4. "Palace". From the Oxford English Dictionary
  5. "Palatine". From the Oxford English Dictionary
  6. Stowe, George B. (1995). Kibler, William; Zinn, Grover A. (eds.). Palatinates. Medieval France: An Encyclopedia. Garland. p. 576. ISBN   9780824044442.
  7. "Paladin". From the Oxford English Dictionary
  8. Livy 1.5.1.
  9. Ernout and Meillet, Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue latine, s.v. palātum.
  10. CACUS: Giant of the Land of Latium".
  11. World Archeology 03MAR2011
  12. Livy, Ab urbe condita , 1:33
  13. Rome, An Oxford Archaeological Guide, A. Claridge, 1998 ISBN   0-19-288003-9, p. 120
  14. "The House of Livia - Rome, Italy - History and Visitor Information". Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  15. Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire, 184p.
  16. For a classical account of the birth (and birthplace) of Augustus, refer to: Suetonius, Life of Augustus , 5.
  17. Varro Linguae Latinae 5.155; Festus L 174; Tacitus Annales 12.24
  18. "Sacred Cave of Rome's Founders Found, Scientists Say". Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  19. Aloisi, Silvia "Expert doubts Lupercale 'find'" The Australian November 24, 2007
  20. "È uno splendido ninfeo, ma il Lupercale non era lì" la Repubblica November 23, 2007
  21. Schulz, Matthia "Is Italy's Spectacular Find Authentic?"Spiegel Online November 29, 2007 Archived 2012-02-02 at the Wayback Machine

Coordinates: 41°53′18″N12°29′13″E / 41.88833°N 12.48694°E / 41.88833; 12.48694