The area, which occupies the eastern side of the imperial palace built on the Palatine Hill, constituted the personal stadium of the emperor Domitian and was built by him between 81 and 92 AD.
Excavated towards the end of the 19th century, it is a circus-shaped building, with an elongated rectangular plan of approximately 160 x 48 metres, with the south-western side curved and surrounded on three sides by a portico with three floors and equipped on the eastern one of an enormous exedrawith a canopy roof. Leaning against the Domus Flavia-Augustana, it occupied its entire eastern side.
More than a real stadium, the building had the function of a viridarium, that is, a garden and a riding place for the imperial court, as we also know from the description of the villas left to us by Plinius the Younger, often equipped with private “hippodromes”, gardens in the shape of circuses, also used for riding; many sculptures were found in the area and are now exhibited at the Palatine Museum.
The stadium was restored several times over the centuries: in the Hadrian age (2nd century AD) and subsequently by Septimius Severus (at the beginning of the 3rd century), who completely transformed its decorative structure.
Palatine Hill is a must-visit for those interested in Roman history, archaeology, and the legendary origins of the city. Access to Palatine Hill is typically combined with a visit to the Roman Forum, as the two sites are closely interconnected. Palatine Hill (Palatino in Italian) is one of the seven hills of Rome and holds significant historical and archaeological importance. Here are key details about Palatine Hill:
- Location: Palatine Hill is located in the center of Rome, between the Roman Forum and the Circus Maximus. It offers panoramic views of the city.
- Historical Significance: Palatine Hill is one of the most ancient parts of Rome and is associated with the city’s legendary foundation. According to Roman mythology, it is where Romulus and Remus, the twin brothers who were said to be the founders of Rome, were found and cared for by a she-wolf.
- Palaces of Emperors: Over time, Palatine Hill became a desirable residential area. It was favored by emperors, and palaces were constructed on its slopes. The ruins of several imperial palaces, including the Palatine Museum, are still visible.
- Domus Augustana: The Domus Augustana, part of the Palatine Palace, served as the official residence of Roman emperors. The House of Livia, another significant structure, is associated with the wife of Emperor Augustus.
- Archaeological Excavations: Palatine Hill is an archaeological site with ongoing excavations. Visitors can explore the ruins of ancient structures, including the Stadium of Domitian, the House of the Griffins, and the Farnese Gardens.
- Roman Forum Connection: Palatine Hill is directly connected to the Roman Forum. The two sites were central to the political, religious, and social life of ancient Rome. The Sacred Way, a ceremonial road, linked the Roman Forum to the top of Palatine Hill.
- Festival of Lupercalia: The Lupercal, a cave traditionally associated with the she-wolf and the infancy of Romulus and Remus, is located on the northwest slope of Palatine Hill. The ancient festival of Lupercalia, celebrated in mid-February, had its origins here.
- Scenic Gardens: Palatine Hill features scenic gardens and walkways, providing a tranquil escape from the bustling city below. The gardens offer picturesque views of Rome and its landmarks.
- Architectural Ruins: Visitors to Palatine Hill can see the ruins of various structures, including temples, residences, and arches, providing insights into the architectural and urban development of ancient Rome.