the palatine hill

Rome Shorts: the Palatine Hill

Have you ever wondered where the word ‘palace’ comes from? Ultimately, it derives from the Latin palatium which was another name for the mons palatinus (Palatine Hill) one of Rome’s legendary seven hills.

The name palatium, in turn, probably derives from the Latin pala, meaning stake. This is because the Palatine Hill was the first area settled in ancient Rome and the early houses were surrounded by a protective fence or stockade. By the late BCs, the palatium had become a posh area of the city and Octavian, the nephew and adopted son of Julius Caesar, had a house there. In 27 BC, Octavian became Augustus, the first Roman Emperor and his house became the Imperial residence.

Over the next hundred years or so, successive emperors enlarged the residence until it took over the whole hill. The word palatium eventually came to mean the residence of the emperor, in other words, the palace.

palatine hill
The vast palatium with the circus maximus in the foreground.

Today, the extensive ruins of the palace are still visible on the Palatine Hill and are open to the public. The best view of then is from the Belvedere Romolo e Remo, on the road that runs on the other side of the Circus Maximus, which was next to the palace.

Where to eat: If you’re enjoying the view of the palatium from Belvedere Romolo e Remo and need a coffee or lunch break, pop into the Bar Bistro Gusto Massimo. It has the feel of a real Roman local bar and does pretty good food too.

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