Ancient Roman sites

Roman Archeological Park

In the first century BC. the Romans set their sights on the Lower Rhineland. They erected a military camp on the Fürstenberg so that they could advance into Germania to the east of the Rhine by crossing the river Lippe. After the devastating defeat of Varus by the Germanic forces led by Arminius in 9 AD, the river Rhine became the eastern frontier of the Roman empire. A port and a settlement developed north of th ...
Founded: 98 AD | Location: Xanten, Germany

Saint-Romain-en-Gal

On the border of the Rhône river, the archaeological site of Saint-Romain-en-Gal is home to the Gallo-Roman remains of an ancient district of Vienne. Its museum recounts the ancient history of Vienne and boasts a magnificent collection of mosaics. Saint-Romain-en-Gal is one of the largest Gallo-Roman sites in France. The classified site contains more than 3 hectares, where are located the remains of residential and ...
Founded: 0-300 AD | Location: Vienne, France

Crypta Neapolitana

The Crypta Neapolitana is an ancient Roman tunnel near Naples. It was built in 37 BC, and is over 700 metres long. The tunnel passes beneath the Posillipo hill and connects Naples with the so-called Phlegrean Fields and the town of Pozzuoli along the road known as the via Domiziana. The eastern Piedigrotta entrance is now enclosed within an archaeological park, and the site of the villa of Vedius Pollio, an ...
Founded: 37 BCE | Location: Napoli, Italy

Virgil's tomb

Virgil"s tomb is a Roman burial vault in Naples, said to be the tomb of the poet Virgil (70-19 BCE). It is located at the entrance to the old Roman tunnel known as the grotta vecchia or cripta napoletana in the Piedigrotta district of the city, between Mergellina and Fuorigrotta. It is a small structure, with a small dome of rocks located at the top of the park.
Founded: 19 BCE | Location: Naples, Italy

Gortyn

Gortyn or Gortys was a city that flourished particularly during the Roman era. It was the capital of the Roman province of Crete and Cyrenaica. It had its origins in the Minoan era (around 3200 BC). The most distinctive monuments are the Praetorium, the residence of the Roman governor of the province, and the Nymphaion (both dating from 2nd century AD), where the Nymphs were worshipped. There is also a temple of Pythian ...
Founded: 3200 BC | Location: Górtyn, Greece

Caviclum

Caviclum was an Roman living site dating back to the 1st or 2nd century BCE. The latest foundings from the Antiquity age date from the 6th century AD.
Founded: 2nd century BCE | Location: Torrox, Spain

Durrës Roman Baths

The Roman baths of Durrës, dating back to the first century AD, were discovered in the 1960s, during the excavations that also revealed more of the amphitheatre. The ruins are situated just off the big square at the back of the Alexsander Moisiu Theatre, and entrance is free. The pool, 7 metres long by 5 metres wide, was heated by a hypocaust, a form of early central heating used in Roman baths across the empire. Natural ...
Founded: 0-100 AD | Location: Durrës, Albania

Baelo Claudia

Baelo Claudia is a well preserved Roman city in Andalucia, Spain, founded in the 2nd century BC. The town was important for fish processing. It was also a centre for trade with Roman towns in North Africa. The life of the inhabitants reached its greatest splendor during the 1st century BC and the 2nd century AD. In the middle of the 2nd century, however, the town declined, probably as a result of a major earthquake whi ...
Founded: Roman | Location: Tarifa, Spain

Villa Jovis

Villa Jovis is a Roman palace on Capri, southern Italy, built by emperor Tiberius and completed in AD 27. Tiberius mainly ruled from there until his death in AD 37. Villa Jovis is the largest of the twelve Tiberian villas on Capri mentioned by Tacitus. The entire complex, spanning several terraces and a difference in elevation of about 40 m, covers some 7,000 m² (1.7 acres). While the remaining eight levels of w ...
Founded: 27 AD | Location: Capri, Italy

Aquileia Roman Ruins

Today, Aquileia is a town smaller than the colony first founded by Rome. Over the centuries, sieges, earthquakes, floods, and pillaging of the ancient buildings for materials means that no edifices of the Roman period remain above ground. The site of Aquileia, believed to be the largest Roman city yet to be excavated, is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Excavations, however, have revealed some of the layout ...
Founded: 181 BC | Location: Aquileia, Italy

Macellum of Pozzuoli

The Macellum of Pozzuoli was the market building of the Roman colony of Puteoli, now the city of Pozzuoli. The city of Dicearchia, founded by Greek refugees escaping dictatorship on Samos, was integrated into the Roman Empire as the city of Puteoli in 194 BC. The macellum was built between the late first and early second century AD, and restored during the third century AD under the Severan dynasty. The buildi ...
Founded: 2nd century AD | Location: Pozzuoli, Italy

Hannibal's Bridge

Hannibal's Bridge (Ponte Annibale) is apparently one of the oldest structures in Rapallo. This bridge was possibly used by Carthaginian commander Hannibal during his campaign against Rome in the second Punic War, where he possibly unloaded supplies on the Tigullia coast (region from Portofino to Anzo di Framura). The bridge could also be connected to the Battle of Trebbia (218 BC). The structure's name first appears in a ...
Founded: 3rd century BCE | Location: Rapallo, Italy

Arch of Augustus

The Arch of Augustus was erected in 25 BC on the occasion of the Roman victory over the Salassi and was the work of Aulus Terentius Varro Murena. Constructed from conglomerate, the arch has a single vault, with a height to the keystone of 11.4 metres. Its span is a barrel vault, constituting an extension in width of a round arch. In the monument, various styles can be recognised: The ten engaged columns which deco ...
Founded: 25 BC | Location: Aosta, Italy

Pont-Saint-Martin Roman Bridge

The Pont-Saint-Martin is a Roman segmental arch bridge in the Aosta Valley in Italy dating to the 1st century BC.
Founded: c. 25 BC | Location: Pont-Saint-Martin, Italy

Cumae

Cumae was an ancient city of Magna Graecia on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Founded by settlers from Euboea in the 8th century BC, Cumae was the first Greek colony on the mainland of Italy and the seat of the Cumaean Sibyl. It spread its influence throughout the area over the 7th and 6th centuries BC, gaining sway over Puteoli and Misenum and, thereafter, founding Neapolis (Naples) in 470 BC. The Greek pe ...
Founded: 8th century BCE | Location: Bacoli, Italy

Las Médulas

Las Médulas is a historic gold mining site near the town of Ponferrada. It was the most important gold mine (and largest open pit gold mine) in the entire Roman Empire. Las Médulas Cultural Landscape is listed by the UNESCO as one of the World Heritage Sites. The spectacular landscape of Las Médulas resulted from the ruina montium (wrecking of the mountains), a Roman mining technique described by Pliny the ...
Founded: 0-100 AD | Location: Las Médulas, Spain

Lumone Tomb

Lumone Tomb is the only remaining vestige of the Roman way station Lumone. The front is in three vaulted arches and traces of fresco decoration are still visible. The tomb was built in the 1st century AD as a way station at the junction of the Via Aurelia and the Via Julia Augusta, and forms part of the Via Julia Augusta archaeological trail.
Founded: 0-100 AD | Location: Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France

Fréjus Roman Amphitheatre

Fréjus Roman Amphitheatre was built at the end of the 1st century AD. This structure, made of small tiles of local green sandstone, could accommodate up to 10,000 spectators. It most likely hosted gladiator fights and wild beast hunts. Today, this building comes to life every summer: large concerts, dancefloors and various performances form a rich and diverse program.
Founded: 0-100 AD | Location: Fréjus, France

Cercadilla

The archaeological site of Cercadilla includes a complete chronological sequence from the 3rd to 12th centuries. The most relevant monument is a Roman palace dated between the end of the 3rd century and the beginning of the 4th century AD. It is believed that it was the headquarters of the Emperor Maximiano Herculeo. A bathtub with mural paintings has been found in the thermal zone of the palace. Regarding the occupation ...
Founded: 3rd century AD | Location: Córdoba, Spain

Roman Fish Salting Factory

The Roman fish salting factory (Factoría romana de salazones) was a salting factory established on the seafront of Algeciras by the Romans. It belonged to the fishing village of San Nicolás, part of what was called Caetaria.
Founded: 0-100 AD | Location: Algeciras, Spain

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the 'Louis XIV style' combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden's pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

To secure the necessary grounds for the elaborate plans for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden and castle, Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages. The displaced villagers were then employed in the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. It was said to have employed eighteen thousand workers and cost as much as 16 million livres. The château and its patron became for a short time a focus for fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. At the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Molière play was performed, along with a dinner event organized by François Vatel, and an impressive firework show.

After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The king seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.

The Marshal Villars became the new owner without first seeing the chateau. In 1764, the Marshal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants would maintain the property for over a century. It is sometimes mistakenly reported that the château was the scene of a murder in 1847, when duke Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, killed his wife in her bedroom, but this did not happen at Vaux-le-Vicomte but at the Paris residence of the Duke.

In 1875, after thirty years of neglect, the estate was sold to Alfred Sommier in a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began under the direction of the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the landscape architect Elie Lainé. When Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to preserve the château, which remains privately owned by Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, the Count and Countess de Vogüé. It is now administered by their three sons Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé. Recognized by the state as a monument historique, it is open to the public regularly.

Architecture

The chateau is situated near the northern end of a 1.5-km long north-south axis with the entrance front facing north. Its elevations are perfectly symmetrical to either side of this axis. Somewhat surprisingly the interior plan is also nearly completely symmetrical with few differences between the eastern and western halves. The two rooms in the center, the entrance vestibule to the north and the oval salon to the south, were originally an open-air loggia, dividing the chateau into two distinct sections. The interior decoration of these two rooms was therefore more typical of an outdoor setting. Three sets of three arches, those on the entrance front, three more between the vestibule and the salon, and the three leading from the salon to the garden are all aligned and permitted the arriving visitor to see through to the central axis of the garden even before entering the chateau. The exterior arches could be closed with iron gates, and only later were they filled in with glass doors and the interior arches with mirrored doors. Since the loggia divided the building into two halves, there are two symmetrical staircases on either side of it, rather than a single staircase. The rooms in the eastern half of the house were intended for the use of the king, those in the western were for Fouquet. The provision of a suite of rooms for the king was normal practice in aristocratic houses of the time, since the king travelled frequently.

Another surprising feature of the plan is the thickness of the main body of the building (corps de logis), which consists of two rows of rooms running east and west. Traditionally the middle of the corps de logis of French chateaux consisted of a single row of rooms. Double-thick corps de logis had already been used in hôtels particuliers in Paris, including Le Vau's Hôtel Tambonneau, but Vaux was the first chateau to incorporate this change. Even more unusual, the main rooms are all on the ground floor rather than the first floor (the traditional piano nobile). This accounts for the lack of a grand staircase or a gallery, standard elements of most contemporary chateaux. Also noteworthy are corridors in the basement and on the first floor which run the length of house providing privacy to the rooms they access. Up to the middle of the 17th century, corridors were essentially unknown. Another feature of the plan, the four pavilions, one at each corner of the building, is more conventional.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was originally planned to be constructed in brick and stone, but after the mid-century, as the middle classes began to imitate this style, aristocratic circles began using stone exclusively. Rather late in the design process, Fouquet and Le Vau switched to stone, a decision that may have been influenced by the use of stone at François Mansart's Château de Maisons. The service buildings flanking the large avant-cour to the north of the house remained in brick and stone, and other structures preceding them were in rubble-stone and plaster, a social ranking of building materials that would be common in France for a considerable length of time thereafter.

The main chateau is constructed entirely on a moated platform, reached via two bridges, both aligned with the central axis and placed on the north and south sides. The moat is a picturesque holdover from medieval fortified residences, and is again a feature that Le Vau may have borrowed from Maisons. The moat at Vaux may also have been inspired by the previous chateau on the site, which Le Vau's work replaced.

Gardens

The château rises on an elevated platform in the middle of the woods and marks the border between unequal spaces, each treated in a different way. This effect is more distinctive today, as the woodlands are mature, than it was in the seventeenth century when the site had been farmland, and the plantations were new.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex, stretching nearly a mile and a half (3 km), with a balanced composition of water basins and canals contained in stone curbs, fountains, gravel walks, and patterned parterres that remains more coherent than the vast display Le Nôtre was to create at Versailles.

Le Nôtre created a magnificent scene to be viewed from the house, using the laws of perspective. Le Notre used the natural terrain to his advantage. He placed the canal at the lowest part of the complex, thus hiding it from the main perspectival point of view. Past the canal, the garden ascends a large open lawn and ends with the Hercules column added in the 19th century. Shrubberies provided a picture frame to the garden that also served as a stage for royal fêtes.

From the top of the grand staircase, this gives the impression that the entire garden is revealed in one single glance. Initially, the view consists of symmetrical rows of shrubbery, avenues, fountains, statues, flowers and other pieces developed to imitate nature – these elements exemplify the Baroque desire to mold nature to fit its wishes, thus using nature to imitate nature. The centerpiece is a large reflecting pool flanked by grottos holding statues in their many niches. The grand sloping lawn is not visible until one begins to explore the garden, when the viewer is made aware of the optical elements involved and discovers that the garden is much larger than it looks.