The Palatine Hill (Latin: Collis Palatium or Mons Palatinus) is the centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome and is one of the most ancient parts of the city. It stands 40 metres above the Forum Romanum, looking down upon it on one side, and upon the Circus Maximus on the other.
Many affluent Romans of the Republican period (510 BC – c. 44 BC) had their residences there. The ruins of the palaces of Augustus (63 BC – 14), Tiberius (42 BC – 37) and Domitian (51 – 96) can still be seen. Augustus also built a temple to Apollo here, beside his house.
The Palatine Hill was also the site of the festival of the Lupercalia.
Overlooking the Forum Romanum is the Flavian Palace which was built largely during the reign of the Flavian dynasty (69 – 96) – Vespasian, Titus and Domitian. This palace, which was extended and modified by several emperors, extends across the Palatine Hill and looks out over the Circus Maximus. The building of the greater part the palace visible from the Circus was undertaken in the reign of the emperor Septimius Severus (146 – 211).
Immediately adjacent to the palace of Severus is the Hippodrome of Domitian. This is a structure which has the appearance of a Roman Circus and whose name means Circus in Greek, but is too small to accommodate chariots. It can be better described as a Greek Stadium, that is, a venue for foot races. However, its exact purpose is disputed. While it is certain that during the Severan period it was used for sporting events, it was most likely originally built as a garden shaped like a stadium. According to a guide from the Sopraintendenza Archeologica di Roma, most of the statuary in the nearby Palatine museum comes from the Hippodrome. (Domitian also built a larger stadium that was actually used for foot-racing competitions; it exists today as Piazza Navona, lo stadio di Domiziano.)
The Palatine Hill, and the Roman Forum beneath it, is now a large open-air museum and can be visited on the same ticket as the Colosseum. The entrance is on Via di San Gregorio, the street just beyond the Arch of Constantine, going away from the Colosseum.
In July 2006, archaeologists announced the discovery of the Palatine House, which they believe to be the birthplace of Rome's first Emperor, Augustus. Head archaeologist Clementina Panella uncovered a section of corridor and other fragments under Rome's Palatine Hill, which she described on July 20 as "a very ancient aristocratic house." The two story house appears to have been built around an atrium, with frescoed walls and mosaic flooring, and is situated on the slope of the Palatine that overlooks the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine. The Republican-era houses on the Palatine were overbuilt by later palaces after the Great Fire of Rome (64), but apparently this one was not; the tempting early inference is that it was preserved for a specific and important reason. On the ground floor, three shops opened onto the Via Sacra.
In January 2007 Italian archeologist Irene Iacopi announced that she had probably found the legendary Lupercal cave beneath the remains of Augustus' residence, the Domus Livia (House of Livia) on the Palatine. Archaeologists came across the 16-metre-deep cavity while working to restore the decaying palace. The first photos of the cave show a richly decorated vault encrusted with mosaics and seashells. The Lupercal was probably converted to a sanctuary by Romans in later centuries.
On November 20 2007 archaeologists unveiled photographs of the cave. Partially collapsed and decorated with seashells and colored marble, the vaulted sanctuary is buried 16 metres inside the Palatine hill. A white eagle was found atop the sanctuary's vault.
Most of the sanctuary is collapsed or filled with earth, but laser scans allowed experts to estimate that the circular structure has a height of 8 metres and a diameter of 7.3 metres.
The term palace itself stems from Palatium.
Tomei, Maria Antonietta. "The Palatine." Trans. Luisa Guarneri Hynd. Milano: Electa (Ministero per i Beni e le Actività Culturali Sopraintendenza Archeologica di Roma), 1998.