Rome is one of the world’s most historic cities. It has served as the centre of power for various monarchs and elected leaders for nearly three millennia. Today, it is the capital city of Italy, home to nearly 4.5 million people, and the base for many Italian and global businesses.
In addition to its 4.5 million residents, a further 9 million visit Rome from all over the world every year, many of whom are hoping to get a glimpse into the lives of Ancient Romans.
And with good reason too! Roman inventions shape our world today and the way that residents of the ancient city lived their lives was actually not too dissimilar to what we’re familiar with.
Basic civil engineering that we don’t even think about today was also a fact of life for most Romans. They had sewer systems to prevent waste from spreading disease, buildings with central heating, books to share knowledge, and a postal service to aid communication.
For this reason, many tourists visit Rome in hope of seeing and better understanding how this ancient city has shaped their own existence today. If you are one of those people, then here are some places to add to your itinerary.
The Circus Maximus
Horse racing is one of the world’s most-watched sports. Most of us are aware that it has been around much longer than other modern competitions, since some of the racecourses in European nations like England are more than 500 years old.
In modern life, some horse races are culturally significant. For example, in Australia, the day of the Melbourne Cup is usually a public holiday for those in the state of Victoria. The equivalent in England is the Grand National, a race that has been held since 1839. It will often be the only race that many people watch and place a bet on, so many Brits will turn to tipsters or use their skills from betting on games like poker instead.
Roman horse racing was a little different. Instead of a jockey sitting on top of their horse, they were often pulled along in a chariot. Circus Maximus is a stadium built for this chariot racing. Not much remains today, but you can still see the ruins of the structure that would have once seated 150,000 cheering fans.
Located at Via del Circo Massimo, it is a great insight into Roman entertainment.
The Roman Forum is hard to miss. It’s a huge site located across the road from the Colosseum. It served many functions during its time, including as the home of several government buildings, a marketplace, and a general centre for daily life.
It will have seen criminal trials, processions, parades, gladiatorial matches, public speeches, and elections.
Most of the buildings in the Forum are heavily damaged, and little remains of some of them. However, it’s still possible to understand the grandeur of these structures, especially as they tower over you.
Baths of Caracalla
To stay clean, most Romans visited public baths that were known as thermae. These were buildings with washing facilities and, sometimes, larger pools that you could swim in. They were also important social centres, where people would go to spend time with friends, socialise, and read.
Bathhouses can be found right across the former Roman Empire, with famous ones in the aptly-named English city of Bath, the Bulgarian town of Kyustendil, and Beit She’an in Israel.
One of the biggest that you can find in Rome is the Baths of Caracalla. Built some time in the 3rd century AD, they were used for around 300 years before they fell into disuse.
They cover 100,000 square meters (1.1 million square feet) and stand 40 metres high. In addition to being a place to bathe, the Baths of Caracalla housed a public library with both Greek and Latin texts. Parts of this library remain today, giving you an insight into where Romans would have gone to learn about new topics.
You can find the baths located on the Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, south of the Colosseum.