Now a sprawling metropolis, Rome’s nascent years were spent as a collection of settlements perched atop the highest grounds to the east of the Tiber. What did these peaks become known as? The 7 hills of Rome.
These hills, all now located within the heart of the Eternal City, originally negated the marshland below. However, it was not long until these hilltop camps began to interact and in the 4th century BC the Severian Walls were erected around this now connected area.
With the bog below, named Campus Martius, beginning to also become inhabited a century previously Rome had become its own relative sprawl of its time. However, this did nothing to diminish the relevance of the 7 hills of Rome in ancient myths and legends, as well as forthcoming moments of importance and sway of the long history of the city.
So, let’s dive straight in shall we?
The first of the 7 hills: Palatine Hill
The Palatine Hill is, without doubt, the most influential of all the seven hills of Rome. Legend tells us that it was here that Hercules strangled the fire-breathing giant Cacus. It was also here that the she-wolf who suckled Romulus and Remus had her cave, and of course, it is where Romulus returned to found Rome.
Yet, the human history of the Palatine Hill stretches back at least to the 10th century BC, some two centuries before the city’s foundation. And its prominence remained strong throughout the eras of the Roman Republic and Empire, with Rome’s most distinguished figures choosing this quiet spot away from the hustle and bustle below for their residence. Did you know that the Palatine Hill was even the home of the city’s famed succession of Caesars?
Today, the Palatine Hill acts as a spectacular and much-visited tourist destination, with tickets to the Colosseum and Roman Forum also including a visit to this revered area. Why not take a private Colosseum & Ancient Rome Tour to be guided through the intricacies and nuances of the hill’s ruins by one of our local, expert guides?
Aventine Hill and its Orange Garden
Today, Aventine Hill is known best for the Orange Garden (Giardini degli Aranci). 8,000 square meters of beauty and serenity, the garden offers one of the best views of Rome’s skyline. What’s more, upon Aventine Hill lies one of Rome’s best-kept secrets. Just outside the Priory of the Knights of Malta is an inconspicuous iron gate. Peep through its keyhole, however, and you’ll be treated to a unique view of Saint Peter’s Basilica peaking through the hedges.
However, Aventine Hill has not always acted simply as a tourist destination. Tradition states that whilst Romulus was establishing his presence on the Palatine, his brother Remus set up his Augural tent (the spiritual or legal center of a camp) on the Aventine.
The hill since acted as an area of residential changes and spiritual relevance, with the resettlement of rivals, the sacking by the Gauls, and the introduction of new deities all taking place on this southernmost of the 7 hills of Rome.
The Capitoline and Quirinal Hills
Both the Capitoline and Quirnal Hills of course have roots in antiquity, being two of the 7 hills of Rome. However, each of these is known today for more recent developments.
Atop the Capitoline Hill there is the Piazza del Campidoglio. Designed by Michelangelo, the piazza is a symbol of the Renaissance. An equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius is surrounded by a trio of palazzi, of which Michelangelo provided the facades of two. Today these combine to make the Capitoline Museums, considered to be the oldest museum in the world.
→ Take a Capitoline Museums Tour with Walks Inside Rome!
Our fourth of the 7 hills of Rome has connotations not with past periods of Roman history, but with present day. Located on this re (hill) is the Palazzo del Quirinale. Once home to the Pope, then of the King, the palace is now the official residence of the President of the Italian Republic.
Caelian Hill, Esquiline Hill and Viminal Hill
Not all of the 7 hills of Rome are laden with obvious tourist attractions, but this is not to say that they will not be permanently etched into the history of the Eternal City for their individual reasons.
According to the Roman author Varro, the Caelian Hill got its name from an Etruscan folk hero Caelius Vibenna. During the Roman Republic the area became fashionable for the city’s most wealthy inhabitants, and it is alleged that Marcus Aurelius was born on the hill during Rome’s Imperial stage.
As for the Esquiline Hill, its history, according to Roman historian Livy, truly began with its expansion under Servius Tullius, Rome’s sixth king. Fast forward some 700 years and Nero was acting like an almighty ruler, stealing land on the Esquiline to build his Golden House and Baths of Tajan.
Finally, we have the Viminal Hill. The smallest of the 7 hills of Rome, Livy claimed that the Viminal’s history also stretches back to the 6th century BC. Today it hosts the Teatro dell’Opera and the Palace of Viminale.
→ Visit one of these three hills in a completely customizable Golf Cart Tour of Rome!
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