Do all roads really lead to Rome?
Maybe that’s a good question for the new Pope? With yesterday’s appointment of the 1st Pope from outside the original Roman Empire (I think), this ancient saying rings truer than ever.
But what exactly is the Roman Road? The earliest Roman roads were built from about 500 BC and expanded and radiated out as the Empire absorbed surrounding land. Armies, officials and civilians used the 29 military highways and 372 linked roads to travel all over the Empire’s 113 provinces. The stone-paved surfaces of many of the roads survived thousands of years and some modern roads follow those original paths to this day.
I found Roman Ruins, and not just in Rome!
Who knew there were this many ancient Roman Ruin sites?!
During the past two years of jaunting, I found myself on the metaphorical and literal road to Rome more times than I can count.
Here are some of my favorite Roman Ruin spots!
In Jordan, I was mesmerized by the ruins of Jerash. Well-preserved, expansive and not even close to being fully uncovered, Jerash is a perfect place to spend the day imagining what life would’ve been like in this Decapolis city, when chariots barreled down the streets and gladiators fought in the local arena.
If you’re quiet, you can almost hear echoes of a bustling Forum…
Most of Jerash was destroyed in 749 AD by an earthquake, and some of its remaining temples were converted to fortresses during the Crusades. Excavations began in 1806 and continue to this day.
The most striking aspect of Volubilis in Morocco is just how much it resembles the Italian countryside. No wonder it was chosen as a fringe military outpost!
The Roman ruins remained almost completely intact until a devastating 18th century earthquake (hmmm, another earthquake?). Moroccan leaders subsequently ransacked the site to acquire stone to build the nearby city of Meknes.
When you visit Morocco, go with a guide and have him point out all the gorgeous floor mosaics that tell the stories of Roman gods and goddesses. They’re vivid and well-preserved, and a nice memory jog through mythology.
If you’ve been reading Angie Away for any length of time, you probably know I adore the UK just as much as any place I’ve ever been. On my first overseas trip at age 16, I discovered London’s Roman history and was blown away to find remnants of the original Roman wall still preserved near the Tower of London. Years later, I made my way a few hours outside London to Aquae Sulis – the ancient Roman name for the modern town of Bath.
The incredibly well-preserved ancient Roman Baths are below the modern street level and feature the Sacred Spring, the Roman Temple, the Roman Bath House and a museum with antiquities and relics from Roman times. There’s a free audio guide for visitors, so you can tut around at your own pace and try to imagine hordes of Romans (and later, Regency Georgian English folk) bathing, relaxing and “taking the waters” at the hot spring.
Costa Brava, Spain
In Costa Brava, I spotted the beachside Roman ruins of Empúries from a hot air balloon. While the ruins aren’t the largest or best preserved ones I’ve seen (only 20% have been excavated so far!), you certainly can get the idea of how the network of walls, columns and houses were once laid out. And, with spectacular views of the Mediterranean, these 1st century BC are some of the prettiest I’ve ever encountered.
So those are some of my favorite Roman ruins that I’ve seen – whew! What are yours? And hey, while we’re on the subject, what do you think of new Pope Francis 1?
14 thoughts on “All Roads Lead to Roman Ruins”
In the fall of 2000, I spent a few weeks in Europe and Tunisia and saw quite a few Roman ruins. Other than Rome itself (which is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!), my favorite sites included Palestrina (a bit southeast of Rome), Capua (a bit north of Naples), Pozzouli (west of Naples), the beautifully situated theater at Taormina (Sicily), and of course, Pompei (southeast of Naples). In Tunisia, I enjoyed the Roman settlements of Thuburbo Majus, Zaghouan, Dougga, Mactaris, Sufetula, and the fantastic amphitheater at El Jem (formerly the Roman town of Thysdrus). In total, I visited around a dozen Roman amphitheaters and just missed a few more – such as this one just outside of Tunis (http://bit.ly/Z7pQRx), which I wasn’t aware of at the time, even though I had made a point to stop at the ruined Aqueduct of Hadrian not more than a mile to the west. Near the end of my travels, I also drove right by this one (http://bit.ly/Z27m1D) not even realizing it was there. I also missed entirely, the ruins of Carthage (http://bit.ly/13YHE6p). But that was purely due to time (or a lack thereof). Despite that, I had my fun! You can see the sites I did visit here: http://bit.ly/JeUPC5
Aside from Rome, my favorite Roman ruins are in Trier, Germany. There’s a large city gate, an amphitheater, an enormous basilica and baths. And few crowds – I was usually completely alone as I was exploring.
I’ve never seen those but they sound fantastic… I think I need a month or two to explore Germany. Have only spent about a week in Berlin…
I had no idea there were Roman ruins in Morocco. Another reason for me to go there one day. The only Roman ruins I’ve seen were when I was in London. I’d definitely love to see more Roman ruins in Europe and Africa.
Definitely a good Morocco bucket list addition! What did you think of the London ruins?
Roman ruins certainly seem to be nearly everywhere! Did you see the Roman ruins in Vienna that they have begun excavating?
I think my favorite are Jerash though so far. We liked that it was a lot like visiting the Roman Forum in Rome, but with about 1/4 of the tourists.
I haven’t seen the ones in Vienna – how cool!
I knew of many Roman cities/ruins in Europe but was never quite away even the Middle East and North Africa have those on offer.
Same here! Until I came across them in my travels, I didn’t realize just how extensive the Roman Empire really was!
Thank you for reading, Regina!
Where were the ruins sites in Germany that are posted on your map but no city/town names are given? Were there any near Berlin or Northwest Germany?
To the gorgeous angie – have you been to turkey?? There are amazing ruins that were older than Romans then they were invaded so show life before roman invasion, life during fortification and then life after conquer and roman life…. All still there for a small fee thanks to Turkish kids!!!!
To the gorgeous angie!
Have you seen turkey yet? Covered in amazing and accessible ruins!!!!can tell you more ! X
Very nice Angie, thank you.
You might have missed a few ones in France, though.
See for example
Maison carrée de Nimes (one of the best preserved Roman temple to be found anywhere).
Arènes de Nimes.
Pont du Gard (near Nimes).
Roman theater in Orange.
Arc de triomphe in Orange.
Glanum (Saint Rémy de Provence).
Temple Auguste Vienne (Vienne in France, not Vienna in Austria)
Porte de Mars, Reims.
Arc de Germanicus, Saintes.
I’m sure there are many in France! These are just highlights of the ones I’ve actually been to =)
Comments are closed.