Meet the Pivotal Emperors from Ghosts of Rome

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For those looking for a true immersion in the history of Rome, tours on foot are the best way of gaining an authentic perspective on the city's iconic landmarks. You'll encounter in person the architecture and monuments you know so well from photographs, and you’ll create lifelong memories of one of the most astounding cities in the world. Join an expert guide on one of the small group Rome tours and follow in the footsteps of the most powerful and influential leaders of the Roman Empire.

The Ara Pacis: Augustus

When Augustus (the first Emperor of Rome) returned to the city after an absence of three years, the Senate commissioned the Ara Pacis Augustae in his honour. It was originally consecrated in 9 BC, on the periphery of the city in the flood plain of the Tiber River, but over the centuries it became buried under deposits of silt. In the 1930s it was excavated and relocated to the purpose-built Museo dell'Ara Pacis, on the Lungotevere, a boulevard that runs alongside the Tiber.

Dedicated to the Roman Goddess of Peace, this mammoth altar is decorated on all four sides (both inside and out) with reliefs depicting ritualistic religious images and symbolic messages of the power and sacrifice definitive of the Roman Empire.

The Colosseum: Vespasian

It is impossible not to be awed by the magnificence of the Colosseum. It is the largest amphitheatre in the world (and a true feat of engineering), but it is also one of the most significant relics of the merciless power of Roman imperialism.

Vespasian became emperor after Nero, following many years of turmoil within the empire. He commissioned the Colosseum in 70 AD, ostensibly for the entertainment of the people, but more likely as a political statement of his might. It was large enough to hold 50,000 spectators and became a site of gladiatorial battles and the execution of thousands of criminals throughout its history.

More than two thirds of the structure no longer exists, not solely due to the ravages of fire, earthquakes and time. In fact, much of the travertine, tuff and concrete used in its construction was plundered to be used in numerous churches and palaces of the city. Despite this, there's no disputing its enduring and indomitable presence.

Trajan's Column

The Emperor Trajan returned from the Dacian Wars with an embarrassment of riches, which he used in part to commission this commemorative column, in 113 AD. It was the centrepiece of his impressive forum, which included two libraries, a plaza and numerous other civic buildings. Of all the emperors, it is perhaps the spoils of Trajan's victories that changed the landscape of the city in the most substantial way.

Trajan's Column is around 30 metres tall and decorated with a continuous spiral of reliefs depicting victorious scenes from the Dacian conflicts. In all, the stone column comprises more than 200 metres of carvings that encircle it 23 times, telling a story from its base, up the shaft and culminating in the bronze statue of the emperor himself on the top.

Despite its significance, most of the detail remains unseen to the naked eye, as it is impossible to see the reliefs on the higher reaches. (It is thought that originally the top of the column could be observed from the upper levels of the surrounding buildings.)

Discover the Legacy of the Emperors on Rome Tours

Small group Rome tours accompanied by an expert guide open up the past by exploring the streets in a more intimate way. You'll encounter the legacies of the greatest powers of the Roman Empire, without whom the city would have a very different landscape.
About author: Desiree Michels

Rose Magers is an Australian-born Italophile and the founder of ArtViva. With an international reputation for excellence and creativity, ArtViva are at the forefront of escorted day tours in Italy. Rose has indulged her own passion for history and the arts by designing an innovative range of exceptional small group Rome tours and experiences, from guided visits to view the masterpieces of the great art galleries to unforgettable Italian cookery classes.

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