Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Exploring the Roman World

Around 2,000 years ago Romans occupied and ruled, albeit briefly in some regions, over a vast area that centred on the Mediterranean Sea. Dotted about this area still today are the remains of some of the most extraordinary ancient architecture and art. People travel from far and wide to see their ‘bucket list’ sites. From the Colosseum in Rome to Hadrian’s Wall in northern England. Others dedicate much of their leisure travel to visiting as many Roman related points of interest as they can. Whatever your level of interest, this continually developing guide aims to be the definitive guide to the many Roman sites and museums you can visit.

About Our Travel Guide to the Roman World

5 Must See Roman Sites

Colosseum Flavian Amphitheatre Rome

Colosseum

Maison Carree Nimes
Maison Carrée
Hadrians Wall Winshield Milecastle

Hadrian’s Wall

An aerial view of the city of Pompeii with Mount Vesuvius in the background.

Pompeii

Volubilis is a partly excavated Roman city in Morocco situated near Meknes between Fes and Rabat. Built in a fertile agricultural area, it was developed from the 3rd century BC onwards as a Phoenician Carthaginian settlement

Volubulis

From Italic Settlement to Roman Empire

The following very brief overview is intended to give an idea of how the Roman world changed geographically over the centuries. This serves as an introduction to our regional guides. A list of sources and recommended reading is provided as a starting point to learn more about the ‘rise and fall of the Roman Empire’.

The famous bronze statue of a she-wolf and two boys suckling.
The most iconic image of the 'founding of Rome', and the 'original' bronze statue of Lupa Capitolina with Romulus and Remus. Now in the Capitoline Museums, Rome. Replicas of this statue have been made throughout the Roman and modern world.

Roman Kingdom 753 – 509 BC

Despite the fact that the origins of the city of Rome are shrouded in myth and legend, the Romans since at least the 3rd century BC, believed that Rome was founded by the legendary king Romulus on 21 April 753 BC. A date still celebrated in the Eternal City today. Rome’s foundation myth has many versions, but very little to no archaeological evidence to suggest either is an accurate account of the founding of Rome. Archaeologists and historians do not even agree on whether the twin brothers, rescued by a wolf on the banks of the Tiber River and raised by a shepard, were historical figures or not.

A carving of Lupa suckling the twins from Ratiaria in Bulgaria.
A carved relief from Ratiaria, Bulgaria.
A statue of Lupa and the suckling twins in a Parisian park.
Samuel Paty Park, Paris.
Lupa with suckling twins on marble cuirass of a statue thought to be Hadrian.
Detail of carved cuirass in the Ancient Agora, Athens

What the archaeological evidence does show is that there almost certainly was not one founding event. Rather, the area had been inhabited since at least the 15th century BC. In the 8th century BC hilltop villages came together forming a city state. Located on the banks of the Tiber River, the city occupied a strategic position allowing it to prosper through trade and agriculture.

From this time on, a period known as the Roman Kingdom or the regal period of ancient Roman, the city was ruled by kings. According to Roman historians, there were seven kings, Romulus being the legendary first king of Rome. As all historical documents were destroyed by the Gauls when they attacked the city following the Battle of the Allia around or shortly after 390 BC, the reigns of the named seven kings have not been confirmed by contemporary records. 

At the end of the 6th century, Classical historians give 509 BC as the date, Rome instituted a new political system in which they were no longer ruled by kings chosen by virtue of their birth. The Roman Republic. 

Roman Republic 509 BC–27 BC

Roman Empire 27 BC - 476 AD

The transformation from Republic to Roman Empire has its origins in the turbulent period of the 1st century BC. Several political and military leaders emerged and challenging the traditional republican system. Among them was Julius Caesar, whose military conquests and political actions ultimately led to his dictatorship.

Caesar’s assassination in 44 BC sparked a power struggle between his adopted son, Octavian (later known as Augustus), and Mark Antony. After defeating Antony and Cleopatra in the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, Octavian became the uncontested ruler of Rome. In 27 BC, he officially proclaimed the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire. Under Augustus’ rule, the Roman Empire experienced a period of stability known as the Pax Romana (27 BC – 180 AD).

In 43 AD, Emperor Claudius initiated the Roman conquest of Britain, leading to the establishment of Roman rule over parts of modern-day England and Wales. In 63 BC Roman general Pompey conquered the region of Judaea, making it a client kingdom under Roman control. Following a Jewish rebellion in 66 AD, the Romans reasserted their dominance, resulting in the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Throughout the 1st century AD, Roman legions made several incursions into Germania, but the region was never fully conquered. The Rhine River became the boundary between Roman and Germanic territories. The Emperor Trajan launched military campaigns in the early 2nd century AD, adding the region of Dacia to the empire. Although it was later abandoned due to strategic reasons, it showcases the Roman Empire’s territorial ambitions.

During the third century AD, between specifically between 235 and 284 AD, the Roman Empire witnessed political instability, economic crises, and military uprisings. Emperors rose and fell rapidly, weakening central authority and dividing the empire. In the late 3rd century AD Emperor Diocletian implemented far reaching reforms to stabilize the empire. Significantly he divided it into the Eastern and Western Roman Empires, each with its own ruler and administrative bodies. The Western Roman Empire continued to suffer challenges from external invasions, particularly by Germanic tribes and the Huns. In 476 CE, the last Roman Emperor of the West, Romulus Augustulus, was deposed by the Germanic chieftain Odoacer, marking the traditional date for the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

Map of the Roman Empire at its Greatest Extent in 117 AD

Map Of The Roman Empire 117ad
The Roman Empire (red), with client states (pink), at its greatest extent in 117 AD, under Emperor Trajan. Map © Tataryn / Wikimedia

Read More About the Roman Empire

Featured Destination

Nemausus ~ Roman Nîmes

From beef Bourguignon to Burgundy wines, the region that was once one of the most powerful medieval kingdoms in Europe today attracts visitors for its history and culture as it does its gastronomic heritage. 

Best Preserved Roman Towns & Cities

Countries that Make Up the Roman World

From Portugal and Wales in the west to southwestern Iran in the East. From southern Egypt to Scotland in the north.