Ancient Roman sites

Gonio Castle

Gonio fortress (previously called Apsaros, or Apsaruntos), is a Roman fortification in Adjara, at the mouth of the Chorokhi river. The oldest reference to the fortress is by Pliny the Elder in the Natural History (1st century AD). There is also a reference to the ancient name of the site in Appian’s Mithridatic Wars (2nd century AD). In the 2nd century AD it was a well-fortified Roman city within Colchis. The ...
Founded: 1st century AD | Location: Adjara, Georgia

Posillipo Archaeological Park

The archaeological park is one of the most beautiful places in the city and along the coast of Posillipo. Among the most important sites are the Seiano cave, the underwater park of Gaiola, the imperial villa of Pausilypon, the Odeon, the theatre and the Palace of the Spirits. The ruins of the Roman villa of Vedius Pollio, also known as the Imperial Villa, include a 2000-seat theatre on the rocky promontary at the end of ...
Founded: 1st century BCE | Location: Naples, Italy

Barbara Baths

The Barbara Baths (Barbarathermen) are a large Roman bath complex designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Barbara Baths were built in the second century AD. The extensive ruins were used as a castle in the Middle Ages, then torn down and recycled as building material until the remains were used for constructing a Jesuit College in 16 ...
Founded: 100-200 AD | Location: Trier, Germany

Piscina Mirabilis

The Piscina Mirabilis was a freshwater cistern on the Bacoli cliff at the western end of the Gulf of Naples. One of the largest freshwater cisterns built by the ancient Romans, it was situated there in order to provide the Roman western imperial fleet at Portus Julius with drinking water. The cistern was dug entirely out of the tuff cliff face and was 15 metres high, 72 metres long, and 25 metres wide. It was ...
Founded: 27 BCE - 14 AD | Location: Bacoli, Italy

Roman Pyramid

The Roman Pyramid in Vienne is an emblematic building of the architectural heritage of the city together with the Roman Theatre. It is an unique remain of a Roman circus, where racing took place. The pyramid was the central building of the Roman 'circus maximus'. The 25 meters high obelisk stood in the center of the sand track. Its location on an axial platform (Spina) was confirmed by excavations in the nineteenth an ...
Founded: 100-200 AD | Location: Vienne, France

Pont de Pierre

The Pont de Pierre, meaning 'Stone Bridge', is a Roman segmental arch bridge in Aosta. The bridge crossed the Buthier about 600 m from the eastern exit of the Roman colony Augusta Praetoria; in later times the torrente changed its course, leaving the ancient bridge today without water. The structure is dated to the second half of the reign of Augustus (30 BC–14 AD), who had earlier founded the ...
Founded: 25 BC | Location: Aosta, Italy

Acinipo

Acinipo was a city about 20 kilometers from Ronda, believed to have been founded by retired soldiers from the Roman legions more than 2,000 years ago. The remaining ruins include a Roman theater still in use today. Some historians assert that Acinipo was created after the battle of Munda (45 BC), fought between the armies of Julius Caesar and the army of Pompey"s two sons, Gnaeus and Sextus. To Caesar, Munda ...
Founded: 45 BCE | Location: Ronda, Spain

Circus of Maxentius

The Circus of Maxentius is an ancient part of a complex erected by emperor Maxentius on the Via Appia between AD 306 and 312. It is situated between the second and third miles of the Via Appia between the basilica and catacombs of San Sebastiano and the imposing late republican tomb of Caecilia Metella, which dominates the hill that rises immediately to the east of the complex. The Circus itself is the best preserved in ...
Founded: 306-312 | Location: Rome, Italy

Echternach Roman Villa

On the outskirts of Echternach is located one of the largest and richest estates of the northwestern provinces of the Roman Empire. The completely excavated manor house, measuring 118 x 62 m, was probably a palace. It had 40-70 rooms on the ground floor alone, provided with peristyles, courtyards, basins, marble facing, mosaic pavement and underfloor heating. This magnificent estate consisted of at least ten more building ...
Founded: 0-200 AD | Location: Echternach, Luxembourg

Río Verde Roman Villa

The ancient site at Rio Verde was once part of the great Roman city of Cilniana. It now houses the remains of a late 1st century AD Roman villa. Sadly all that is left is the floor and a small portion of the walls of the villa. However, fortunately for us it is a floor unlike any other - embellished with black and white mosaic tiles in patterns never before seen in a Roman Villa, and intricately encased by a border of the ...
Founded: 0-100 AD | Location: Marbella, Spain

Castelseprio

Castelseprio or Castel Seprio was the site of a Roman fort in antiquity, and a significant Lombard town in the early Middle Ages, before being destroyed and abandoned in 1287. It is today preserved as an archaeological park. Castelseprio originated as a Roman fort that commanded an important crossroad. During the early Middle Ages, the Lombards occupied the Roman fort, turning it into a fortified citadel or smal ...
Founded: 4th century AD | Location: Castelseprio, Italy

Gennes Amphitheatre

Remains of the Gallo-Roman amphitheatre date from the 2th century AD. The venue built for gladiator and huntings shows had originally seats for 5000 spectators.
Founded: 2nd century AD | Location: Gennes, France

Séviac Gallo-Roman Villa

Set on a hilltop surrounded by vineyards and cypresses, the Gallo-Roman villa of Séviac was a luxurious residence, spread over almost 6500m2. It is today one of the largest Gallo-Roman villas known in the south-west of France. The villa was built in the 2nd century AD and reconstructed in the 3rd and 4th centuries. Later in the 8th and 9th centuries the place was used for a church, burials and necropolis. The villa is ...
Founded: 2nd century AD | Location: Séviac, France

Lugdunum Convenarum

In 72 BCE the Roman General Pompey, while on the way back to Rome after a military campaign in Spain, founded a Roman colony in Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges. The goal was to defend the passage to the Aran Valley and the Iberian peninsula. The colony was named Lugdunum Convenarum and had reached around 30,000 people at its highest point. It belonged to the Roman province of Novempopulana and had a growing Christi ...
Founded: 72 BCE | Location: Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges, France

Vieux-la-Romaine

During the 1st century AD, Aregenua (Vieux) became the capital of the Viducasse tribe. Situated at the crossroads of two Roman roads it became an important commercial staging town. Aregenua and Lillebonne are the only two capital towns in Gallo-Roman Normandy that did not become Medieval towns. A number of buildings have been excavated, and some have been partially reconstructed.
Founded: 0 - 200 AD | Location: Vieux, France

Tsikhisdziri

Tsikhisdziri is home to an archaeological site and ruins of a Late Antique fortified town, which is identified with the Roman-built city-fortress of Petra. Petra, founded at the behest of the emperor Justinian I in 535 and, after a series of battles for the possession of that city during the Lazic War with Sasanid Iran, was demolished by the Romans themselves to prevent it again becoming the enemy"s target ...
Founded: 535 AD | Location: Kobuleti, Georgia

Alauna Roman Therms

There are imposing remains of the Roman therms of the ancient antique city of Alauna (today Valognes), built in the 1st century AD. The edifice was built in a symetric plan and had about ten rooms, including a steam room, a hot pool and a cold pool. The masonries were elevated at about a dozen metres and neatly built, associating small cubic stone block bases to brick layers.
Founded: 0 - 100 AD | Location: Valognes, France

Corseul Roman Ruins

Corseul was called Fanum Martis ('Temple of Mars') in Latin and was the capital of the Gallo-Roman province of Coriosolites. It was founded in 10 BC. In the 3rd and 4th centuries, like many other cities, Fanum Martis was renamed for its people, the Curiosolitae. This name change occurred as the Roman Empire weakened and paralleled a revival of the ancient Gallic gods in local religious sculptures and dedicatory ...
Founded: 10 BC | Location: Corseul, France

Ad Quintum

Ad Quintum was an ancient Roman city in Illyricum, on the Via Egnatia connecting Dyrrhachium with Byzantium. The settlement was probably founded in the late 2nd or in the early 3rd century AD, and continued to be populated until the 4th century AD. Its well preserved ruins can be seen near the present-day village Bradashesh, right next to the SH7 road. The site was extensively excavated around 1968 which uncovered a fine ...
Founded: 2nd century AD | Location: Bradashesh, Albania

Gisacum

In the 2nd century AD, the city-sanctuary of Gisacum extended near Saint-Aubin, which was gradually abandoned until disappearing in 5th century. In the 1801 archaeological excavations uncovered this important Gallo-Roman site; but in reality at the time the town covered an area of 250 ha. The interpretation centre has a permanent exhibition tracing the history of Gisacum, and the archaeological garden offers an original d ...
Founded: 0 - 100 AD | Location: Le Vieil-Évreux, France

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.