The centremost among the Seven Hills of Rome, Palatine Hill is a treasure trove of archaeological ruins, some of which date back to the foundation of Rome. This four-sided, 40 metre high plateau, replete with the ruins of royal villas and other important monuments, enjoys a matchless significance among those willing to learn about ancient Rome. Roman mythology and several tales emerging from it make the Palatine all the more fascinating for anyone.
There is a long list of interesting facts about Palatine Hill any travel freak must learn about. They are:
1.The first nucleus of the Roman Empire
The city of Rome grew from Palatine Hill, and therefore, the hill was called the ‘first nucleus of the Roman Empire’. In other words, this hill was the origin of Rome from where the city expanded further with the passage of time.
2. The origin of the word ‘Palace’
You would be surprised to know that Palatine is the etymological origin of the English word ‘palace’. Yes, such was the grandeur of this hill back in the days when it was replete with .
3. An abode of nobles
Back in the days of glory, Palatine Hill was replete with grand villas of notable, rich Romans which have been reduced to ruins now. Most of the people residing in the region were noblemen.
4. Inhabited by humans since the 10th Century BC
Various huts dating back to the 9th and 7th Century BC were found in the region during the excavations of 1907 and 1948. These huts have made it evident that Palatine Hill was inhabited by people even back in the 10th Century BC.
5. Home to the first Emperor of Rome
Palatine Hill is a place of great significance in many respects, and one of them is that this is where the first Roman Emperor Augustus was born. Palatine House, discovered during an excavation in 2006 is claimed to be the place of his birth. He grew up on Palatine Hill and after becoming the emperor, lived here with his wife Livia. In fact, The House of Augustus and the House of Livia, two of the finest specimens of ancient art in the region, are the greatest attractions on the hill.
6. The mythical founder of Rome lived in a cave here
As per the most popular legend in the region, Romulus and his twin brother Remus were found in a cave on the Palatine called Lupercal by a she-wolf. Eventually, Romulus killed his own brother Remus and founded the city of Rome.
7. When Hercules defeated Caucus
According to Roman mythology, the Palatine was once terrorized by a giant called Caucus. This fire-breathing creature was also a man-eater and lived in a cave on the Palatine. It is said that before Rome was founded, Caucus was killed by Hercules.
8. Palatine Museum is set in a 16th Century villa
The surviving portion of the Villa Mattei, set between the Domus Augustana and the Domus Flavia, constructed in the 16th Century, houses the Palatine Museum. Before being transformed into a museum, the building was first converted into a convent towards the end of the 19th Century and then partially demolished in 1926 to allow excavation.
9. The assassination of Caligula
Caligula, the third Roman Emperor, was assassinated on the Palatine when he was 28. It is said that he was stabbed 30 times in a tunnel beneath the palaces. To avenge his death, his furious personal guards slaughtered scores of people including bystanders present in the close proximity.
10. The first private botanical gardens in Europe
Palatine Hill claims to house the oldest botanical gardens in Europe. These botanical gardens were built by the Farnese family on the land purchased by the Cardinal Alessandro Farnese in 1550. Some of the most striking features of the Botanical Gardens of Palatine Hill were an assortment of art, an aviary, and a nymphaeum. Some sections of the gardens are still in existence and are explored by visitors.
11. Panoramic view of Rome
With a number of vantage points overlooking some of the important monuments in Rome, Palatine Hill enjoys a great reverence among photography enthusiasts. Spots like Farnese Gardens, The Romulan Huts, and the palace area are known to offer spectacular views of the city.
12. An open-air museum now
The many centuries of natural as well as human destruction have turned the royal site into a collection of ruins. At present, Palatine Hill is a large open-air museum, inviting scores of tourists every day to come see the glory of the Roman history, still somewhat alive in these ruins.