Roman and Mediaeval History, Illlustrated Travel Journals, Mediaeval Literature, Geology

  Maps of Rome

I begin to hate the maps of ancient Rome. They all show the big spots (Forum Romanum, Circus Maximus, Imperial Palace), but try to find one where you can figure out in what places a rich emigrant from Byzantium would buy/built a villa. I've checked online and the usually well assorted university library of Göttingen, but to no avail. The only detailed plans I have are from the Republican times, and that's way too early; I need 400 AD.

While the big spots remained or grew (like the Imperial Palace on the Palatine), the distribution of villas of the rich / insulae of the poor might have changed a lot. In about 50 BC the rich lived on the Palatine and Carina, the insulae gathered in the Subura, on the Esquline and Viminal, and began encroaching the Quirinal. The Martian Fields where still that: fields where the young noblemen trained for the military. In 400 AD, those fields were covered by houses - but what houses, villas or insulae? With the Palatine being taken up by the vast Imperial Palace and the Carina probably more than a bit crowded with oversized estates already, where could someone build a nice large villa? And how did the great incendie under Nero change things - what burned down were mostly the poor quarters, Subura, Esquiline etc, and I suppose they were rebuilt as pauper quarters after Nero's death. But can I assume the father of my MC had his villa on the Martian Fields? Were they an upper class district?

I'm bloody sure there IS a map somewhere and if I'm wrong someone is bound to find out.

The History writers/readers vsiting my blog who haven't done so yet, please join my Writing History forum.
Just popping in to say the site looks fabulous! Best of luck with the new history forum.
Thank you very much, Beth.
Jay! At last same-page comments! I hated the pop-up window thing... thx! :-)

As for ROme, I'll have a look at my sources, and so... You should read Gisbert Haefs's The First Death of Marcus Aurelius, which while not very late Imperial Rome, it's later than yours... It has some nice descriptions, they do sound like he was staring at a good map, anyway... But he's so good! He could be describing a fantasizing Bruselas, and I would swear it was Rome... :-P

Lastly, think that if you cannot find the damned map, your readers won't either, then they won't know... ;-)

Okay, pragmatic thinking, for a change...

see ya!
It's been fairly easy to imagine ancient Athens and where the various residential areas were located because it's allright there, open to viewing. As excalibor says, if you can't locate a map probably your readers won't either, although a publisher might like a map for illustration. Surely there's a scholar somewhere who has the info you need????
Do you need to locate the villa precisely for your story? If the exact location doesn't matter, maybe you can say something vague like 'a luxurious villa on the edge of Rome' or whatever and then the reader can fill in whatever their imagination thinks is appropriate. If the location does matter for a plot point, perhaps Tony Keen could point you to someone who might know or a forum where you could ask. Is it possible that there may not be detailed plans extant and that Rome in 400 AD may be a matter of piecing together fragments from archaeological digs?
Wasn't it all divided up into hills? The Palatine Hill, the Caelian Hill, the Capitoline Hill...I can't remember the rest, but you could probably tell me!

Have you tried asking in the forum at If there's anyone who knows, they'll probably be there.
Ooh, and I meant to ask - on your board, it says there's a registration board? Where? I'm really useless at the internet, so you have to help me. I do want to join, someone's already asked something I want to talk about!
I'll get Haefs' book tomorrow, his work is on the shelves everywhere here. :) Maybe he has a few things I can use besides the basics like the location of the famous places (forum, circus, etc.).

only a few chapters of The Charioteer and Endangered Frontiers take place in Rome (I'm not sure about Lady Physician yet but if so, it won't be a significant amount, the main setting is Moguntiacum and the German/Gaul border) so if a map is required a standard one should do.

I want to get it right within the general area. I don't need the house number, but it makes a difference if the villa is on the Palatine or somewhere "at the edge". :)

the hills are the easy part. What's on some of the hills and in between is where it gets tricky. :)

perhaps someone who already is a member can point you in the right direction. I only get the emails when people want to join. And I have no idea of the process myself, the one other Runboard forum I frequent has no membership apporval.
Ali - here's what I did. You go to the forum, then click on 'Post' as if you wanted to post a message. You get a window saying you aren't allowed to post because you're not a member. Click OK and you get another message saying your application to join has been sent to the administrator. (I assume this must send some sort of automatic message to Gabriele). After a while you will then get a message from Runboard sent to whatever email address you gave them when you set up your Runboard account, and this message will say 'You have been accepted' or something like that. After that I assume this means you're a member and can post. I'm about to go and try it :-)
Thanks Carla,

it's a bit through the backdoor and the kitchen into the living room, but there's nothing I can do about it, alas.
Any luck checking via any other authors who set work there in the same time period?

You're right - if you can't find it, book comes out, someone will dig up the facts. Tough job, research!
Oh, thank you. I'll do that.
Now you've got me wondering - how and what do we know of the layout of ancient Rome in any era? For the "big spots" I imagine we have references in the ancient literature, and the physical remains, but did any ancient maps survive? How were those detailed plans from Republican times worked out?

For AD 400, I suspect the information just isn't extant; the literature of the time was more likely to explain the nature of the Trinity than say where someone's villa was. And a curiosity question - was a rich Roman's house a "villa" even when located in town?

Well, now that you're nagging us :) I'm off to jump through the hoops to join the discussion forum!
Rick, there was still a difference between villae and insulae (the multi-storey buildings), and since a villa needs more space I wonder where they put new ones in a overpopulated city.
Gabriele, would it be ok for me to visit your writing history forum?
Sure Crystal, you're welcome.
No, I wouldn't expect to catch a rich Roman living in an insula! (As I recall, Lindsey Davis has some fun with Falco living in one and dealing with his upper-class girlfriend Helena.)

I would think that urban townhouses of the rich were different from their rural villas, even if they used the same word. But perhaps I'm projecting attitudes of a much later era - now that I think of it, urban living was the norm for ancient elites, wasn't it? Less so perhaps by your era, at least in Gaul; wasn't around AD 400 the period when the upper classes started living in their estates, accelerating the decline of towns?
As I recall there are very detailed maps in Colleen McCullough's The First Man in Rome. I can't remember whether they are fictionalized or not.
There are good maps in that book but unfortunately, they're some 400 years too early for me. Rome changed a lot.
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The Lost Fort is a blog based on my travels in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and other places (like Flanders and the Baltic States), with essays on Roman and Mediaeval history illustrated with lots of photos of old castles, cathedrals, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes. You may also find the odd essay about geology or Mediaeval literature.

All texts (except comments by guests) and photos (if no other copyright is noted) on this blog are copyright of Gabriele Campbell.

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I'm a blogger from Germany with a MA in Literature and History which doesn't pay my bills, so I use it to research blogposts instead. I'm interested in everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader and sometimes writer, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, photographer, and tea aficionado. And an old-fashioned blogger who hasn't yet gotten an Instagram account. :-)