About The Palatine Hill Stadium
The partially-intact Palatine Hill Stadium once formed part of Emperor Domitian’s Domus Augustana, the imperial palace of Rome’s emperors. The exact purpose of the Palatine Hill Stadium itself is unknown, but it was likely a private garden or somewhere for the emperors to exercise their horses.
The Palatine Hill Stadium history
The origins of Rome itself are based on the Palatine Hill, with excavations dating human settlement back to the 10th century BC. The Romans assumed the Greek settlement of Pallantium of Arcadia into the founding of ancient Rome, tying the city to Greek heroes. During the Republic many affluent Romans resided on the hill. This continued into the Empire from 27 BC when Augustus built his palace there and the hill became the domain of emperors.
The Emperor Domitian’s Palace was built between 81 and 92 AD atop the Palatine Hill. The palace can be separated into three areas reflecting how business and private life were separated by Rome’s emperors: the Domus Flavia, the Domus Augustana and the ‘stadium’. The stadium or hippodrome measured 160 by 48 metres, extending over the entire eastern side of the complex.
Looking like a Roman circus, the stadium was too small for chariots and so was most likely a large and very elaborate sunken garden used for private events and foot-races. Domitian built a similar-style garden at his country villa in the Alban Hills. The Palatine Hill garden was decorated with sculptures and fountains, with a belvedere on top of its concrete dome. Around the edges ran a two-floor portico on columns of expensive coloured marble.
The Palatine Hill Stadium was the last section of the palace to be built, replacing older buildings on the spot built by Nero. The complex was discovered and excavated in the 18th century. However, shortly after the building was looted which great compromised its state.
The Palatine Hill Stadium today
Today, you can see the remains of the outer walls of the small stadium and private gardens area, which are open for the public to view from a long railed walkway along the original portico. There are foundational remains for the ancient colonnade surrounding the portico as well as column fragments laid on display in the garden, which give a sense of the former size and grandeur of the site.
Peer into the sunken stadium from the above ruins of Domus Augustana, and appreciate the magnitude of the stadium built just for the private use of Rome’s most elite families.
Getting to The Palatine Hill Stadium
In Rome’s city centre, Palatine Hill is easily accessed on foot from other major sites including the Colosseum – only 8 minutes walk away. The entrance to Palatine Hill is at the Biglietteria Palatino on the Via di San Gregorio, 5 minutes walk uphill to the stadium. The Colosseo is the closest Metro stop along MEB and MEB1 lines, as well as bus routes 51, 75, 85 and 87.