Off the Beaten Path: Lesser Known Ancient Ruins in Rome

House of Augustus or Domus Augusti

The House of Augustus

While there are plenty of reasons to study abroad in Rome, many undergraduates are drawn to the city for its incredibly rich cultural history. They’re excited to immerse themselves in museums, experience local traditions and visit some of the oldest standing structures known to humans. The ruins of ancient Rome can be found all across Europe – reminders of the incredible power, masterful architecture, and enduring legacy of the mighty Roman Empire. And as the capital city of the once-great empire, many of these ruins are easily accessible to students within the walls of Rome.

Students at John Cabot University enjoy regular field trips to famous historical sites as part of their course curriculum. They live and breathe the history of buildings, catacombs, and aqueducts which have withstood millenniums. While ruins like the Coliseum and the Pantheon are must-sees for anyone traveling to Italy, here are some of the lesser known treasures in Rome, and their importance as historical and cultural symbols.

Aqua Claudia

Students who travel abroad to study classical studies in Rome will be amazed by the abundance of aqueducts still standing in and around the city. The Aqua Claudia was constructed between 38 and 52 AD in order to offset the demand required of the city’s existing water management systems. Due to pressure to finish the aqueduct quickly, it is believed that the builders may have sacrificed the quality of materials, meaning the Aqua Claudia was often closed for repairs. This aqueduct is a fascinating and accessible focus of study, as its ruins can be found right in downtown Rome, most notably in the Parco degli Acquedotti and at the foot of Palatine Hill—only a bus ride away from John Cabot’s Guarini campus.

House of Augustus

Located in the heart of the Seven Hills of Rome is the Palatine Hill, where Augustus the first Emperor of Rome had his home. By taking up residence on the Palatine Hill, Augustus transformed a wealthy residential hotspot to a symbol of empirical power. Students who study Art History in Italy can visit the House of Augustus to admire the beautiful ancient frescoes that decorate the walls, depicting the moments in history directly before Rome was transformed from a republic into an empire with the defeat of Marc Anthony.

While on the Palatine Hill, students can also visit Domus Flavia, palace ruins which were once used for the emperor to conduct state business.

Catacombs of St. Callixtus

At over 20km long, the Catacombs of St. Callixtus are some of the largest catacombs in Rome, and the final resting place of many Christian Romans. Within these catacombs is the Crypt of the Popes, the final resting place of nine popes, and an immensely valuable resource for students pursuing degrees in History. The walls of the crypt hold inscriptions in Greek by many of the Popes themselves, the most famous of which is a poem by Pope Damasus, carved into his own tomb. Offering unique insights into the lives of early Christian Romans, the Catacombs of St. Callixtus make for an inspiring day of underground exploration.

Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker

Many of the ancient Roman structures that exist today originally functioned as infrastructure, government buildings, or the dwellings of the wealthy. Very rarely were average citizens—a baker no less—allocated their own monuments. The tomb of Eurysaces was built by the baker Marcus Vergilius Eurysaces, and holds significance because Eurysaces was a “freedman” – a citizen who was once a slave, but eventually managed to buy his freedom. Being a freedman was a source of pride in Rome, and the size of the tomb suggests that Eurysaces must have made a name for himself in order to afford such a lavish monument. The Tomb of Eurysaces is a fascinating historical site for any student interested in ancient Roman society, class systems, and the struggle for equality.

Do you know of any other lesser known, yet notable ancient ruins in Rome?

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