The Palatine Hill (Latin: Collis Palatium or Mons Palatinus) is the centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome and is one of the most ancient parts of the city. It stands 40 metres above the Forum Romanum, looking down upon it on one side, and upon the Circus Maximus on the other.
The story goes that Romulus (of Romulus and Remus fame, you know the twins who were raised by a she-wolf), founded the city of Rome on the Palatine Hill. True or not, who knows? What is known is that Palatine is where the Emperors of Rome had their palaces.
Entrance to Palatine Hill.
The Hippodrome of Domitian. What exactly it was used for it debated; it's too small for chariots so a lot of people figure foot races took place here. Think of it as a big outdoor track.
A lot of the excavations of Rome's ancient treasures were begun by Mussolini, as part of his yay-Italy! fascism campaign. After all, fascism is all about national pride. This is a museum that he built on Palatine.
These are the remains of what is thought to be the residence of Livia (58 BC-29), wife of Augustus.
One of the coolest things about Rome is their water system. The city is fed with water from springs, just like in the old days, and the water is naturally cool and clean. All throughout the city there are fountains just like this one, that constantly run with water. You can refill your water bottles, wash your hands, or drink from the stream without any trouble. You'll just be walking along and BAM!, there's a fountain.
Palatine is a hill after all, so it has some great views of the city. The large dome right smack in the center here is St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.
Rome from another angle.
From the top of Palatine Hill, you look right down on the Roman Forum. In the background of the picture is the Colosseum, with the Arch of Titus and the entrance to the Forum directly in front of it. From wiki:
The Roman Forum, (Latin: Forum Romanum) sometimes known by its original Latin title, is located between the Palatine hill and the Capitoline hill of the city of Rome. It is the central area around which the ancient Roman civilization developed. Citizens referred to the location as the "Forum Magnum" or just the "Forum".
The oldest and most important structures of the ancient city are located in the forum, including its ancient former royal residency the Regia and the surrounding complex of the Vestal virgins. The forum served as a city square and central hub where the people of Rome gathered for justice, and faith. The forum was also the economic hub of the city and considered to be the center of the Republic and Empire.
The large building on the left is the Basilica of Constantine. It was the largest building in the Forum and was completed by Constantine in 312 AD. Remember, he was the guy who made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.
Moving to the left of the Basilica, here is some more of the Forum. The large structure on the far right foreground is the Temple of Antonius and Faustina. It was built in 141 and was later turned into a church, like most Roman temples.
This gives you an idea of the size of the Forum. Just imagine walking down main street in the city of your choice, and that's it. These were all huge buildings and temples in the main downtown area of Ancient Rome.
Looking again to the left, the three columns standing in the foreground are the remnants of the Temple of Vesta. And if we look directly down from Palatine we see...
The home of the Vestal Virgins, keepers of the flame. Apparently, if a vestal virgin was busted with a dude, she was buried alive. Yikes. But they were also released from their service if they made it to 30. So, yay?
We walked down from Palatine and began to follow the Via Sacra, the Sacred Way. This was the original main drag of Rome.
The Via Sacra runs right through the Arch of Titus, that was built to commemorate the capture and sack of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Due to the subject-matter, many Jews refuse to walk through the arch, even to this day. In 1948, during the founding of Israel, a large group of Roman Jews walked under the arch as part of a march. Think of it as a big "eff you" to the Romans from back in the day.
At the other end of the Forum is another arch, the Arch of Septimus Severus.
Between the Temple of Julius Caesar and the Arch of Septimus Severus, is the Column of Phocas, the last thing built in the Forum (directly in the center of the picture).
In front of the Temple of Julius Caesar is the place where his funeral pyre was held. This is the actual spot where Caesar's body was burned.
To come out of the Forum, you walk up a long staircase. Here's a picture looking back. The large brownish cliff-looking object in the background is Palatine Hill, and where I stood to take the earlier pictures looking down on the Forum.
Here's a pic of our hostel room. It was teeny tiny, but the beds were comfortable and...
The bathroom was really nice. Really, that's all I need to be happy. Having to climb up those three flights of stairs every night (no elevator) was no picnic though. Especially carrying our luggage.
Kent really enjoyed the room. Look at him dance! Actually, he couldn't wait to get on the cruise ship, and kind of hated the room. But whatcha gonna do?
All over Rome, there are people trying to sell you something. They have lots of schemes (handing a woman a rose, saying it's free, and then turning to the guy she is with to get money is just one of them). Kent actually bought a belt off some guy outside a metro stop, and bargained him down from 50 euros to 5. Nice!
And here's the belt!
That's it for today. Look for pictures of the Borghase Gallery, Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain tomorrow. Woot!