Rome is one of the most fascinating cities in Italy and it will surely to be a part of any Italian itinerary, not least because of its long history and rich past. In this article, we will help you learn more about it with some of the best facts about Rome.
This is your chance to learn fact from fiction and distinguish the real events from the mythological facts. Continue reading for a fascinating list of Rome facts that will have your jaw dropping.
- Rome’s founders were cared for by a wolf
- Rome was founded on 7 hills
- The capital, but not always
- Nicknames galore
- An epicenter of fountains & churches
- All roads start at Rome
- Cats are protected by law
- The Roman Breathalyzer & lie detector
- Cappuccino, but only for breakfast
- A city of firsts & mosts
- Spanish Steps are Italian & French
- There is a museum for pasta
- The Pantheon is pretty unique
- The Colosseum used to host wild animal fights
- The Roman Forum was a burial ground
- There is a Secret keyhole
- Fun facts about Ancient Rome
- Facts about Rome & its questionable emperors
- Gladiators were celebrities
- There is a state within Rome
Rome’s founders were cared for by a wolf
Rome was founded in 753 BC by Romulus, but did you know that he has a twin brother, Remus? Legend has it that the two twins were abandoned by the Tiber river only to be raised by a female wolf before being found by a wandering shepherd.
The demise of Remus by his own brother came about after the twins wanted to start a new city and couldn’t agree on the name or location. After defeating his brother, Romulus founded Rome on one of Rome’s seven hills, the Palatine Hill.
There’s a famous bronze statue of the twins suckling at their she-wolf mom’s teat inside the Capitoline Museums (Palazzo dei Conservatori) on the Capitoline Hill (Campidoglio). It’s called the Lupa Capitolina (or Capitoline Wolf).
One interesting fact about Rome and the statue you may not know is that the dictator Benito Mussolini, who saw himself as the founder of a “New Rome”, as a sign of goodwill, donated copies of the statue all around the world, for example to Cincinnati in Ohio, Rome in Georgia, and Rome in New York in the US and to the North-Eastern Normal University in China.
Rome was founded on 7 hills
One of the most well known facts about Rome is that it was originally founded by Romulus on Palatine Hill. The word may sound familiar and is now used in English as “palace” from the Latin “palatium” (like “palatial”) used to describe a place of power, and is where the emperors placed their palaces, hence the name.
While Palatine Hill is the cornerstone of the foundation of Rome, the city was actually founded on a total of seven hills that included: Aventine Hill, Caelian Hill, Capitoline Hill, Esquiline Hill, Palatine Hill, Quirinal Hill and Viminal Hill. Any guide to Rome will point out at the 7 hills when giving you an introduction to the city, and now you know why.
You may also recognise the word “capitol” in Capitoline Hill, which is now used in English to describe a building in which the legislative body of government meets.
The capital, but not always
Rome has not always been the capital of Italy. In fact, as Rome was founded in 753 BC, it is actually over 2,000 years older than Italy itself!
One the little known facts about Rome it that after the unification of Italy in 1870, the capital was actually Turin. It then changed over to Florence between 1865–1871 before its final changeover to Rome in 1871.
One of the most interesting of Rome’s facts relates to its name. You may have heard of Rome being referred to as the Eternal City or Urbs Aeterna. This name comes from the poet Tibullus who first mentioned it in the 1st century BC.
Well known Roman poets Virgil and Ovid both later used the expression. It refers to the Ancient Roman belief that Rome truly was the greatest city and that it would in fact last forever.
Other nicknames include Capital of the World (Caput Mundi), due to its centrality in ancient times; Sacred City (Urbs Sacra) referring to the Roman religion, not Christianity; City of God was coined by Augustine; the City of Seven Hills as mentioned previously; or as Italian painter Giotto di Bondone put it Rome is “the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning”.
An epicenter of fountains & churches
You may know the Trevi Fountain made famous in classic movies like Roman Holiday or Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, but one of the most astounding facts about Rome is that there are actually 2000 fountains around the city.
One of the cutest facts about Rome is that the smaller fountains are known as nasone or plural nasoni (Italian for big nose referring to the spout shape) and actually provide drinking water to citizens and visitors.
The water is potable and therefore drinkable, so bring your water bottle along and fill it up with some free holy water. In fact, Rome receives 97% of its drinking water from springs and 3% from wells and has been providing clean drinking water for over 2000 years.
Possibly the most amazing fact about Rome’s fountains is that the Trevi Fountain collects an impressive annual amount of 1.3 million Euros! That’s over 3,000 Euros in a day.
This is due to the belief that if you throw one coin in, you’ll return to Rome and if you throw in two you’ll find love. The money actually goes to a good cause. It is collected every night by government workers and donated to Caritas, a religious nonprofit organization.
Speaking of religion, beyond the astounding amounts of fountains there are also roughly 900 churches in Rome, and this doesn’t even include the private chapels located in historic buildings.
All roads start at Rome
The popular saying “All roads lead to Rome” should actually be written “All roads lead out from Rome”. The reason for this is that the Romans constructed an impressive road network in order to expand the Roman Empire.
This geographical fact about Rome shows that the roads, at its peak in the early fourth century, covered 84,631 km (52,587 miles) and led all the way to distant lands like Egypt in North Africa and London in Britain, the Tigris-Euphrates river system & across the Danube River through to Spain. You can see the old Roman roads in Girona.
Cats are protected by law
You may have heard about the interesting fact about Japan that there is a cat island called Aoshima, but did you know that in Rome, cats are protected by the law?
Cats are legally allowed to live without being disturbed in the place they were born. Indeed, since 1991 it is illegal to kill a feral cat or remove a cat from its colony (five or more).
It’s an interesting sight to see all the cutesy wild cats climbing the ancient walls of spots like the Colosseum or the Forum. The cats actually are included in the city’s bio-heritage.
So how many cats roam around Rome? Close to 300,000! And this doesn’t even include the domesticated cats. You can see the kitties in this short documentary produced by the BBC. This is probably one of the cutest fun facts about Rome.
The Roman Breathalyzer & lie detector
Some little known Rome fun facts revolve around kissing on the lips. Back in ancient times, kissing on the lips was a very common greeting among people of all ages and genders. It was a sign of affection, a display of “salutatio” (salutation) or even gratitude among clients and patrons, boxers and wrestlers, brothers and friends.
But the most interesting reason to smack someone with a kiss on the lips was a form of breathalyser which was described in Plutarch’s Moralia as males in the family wanted to detect whether the females had partaken in wine drinking, which was forbidden at that time.
Another ancient Roman lie detector is said to have been the famous Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth) marble sculpture pictured above. Rumor has it that men would put their hands in the mouth of the statue and make a statement.
If what they said was a lie, the statue would bite off their hand in a single gnashing of the jaw. People still stick their hands in the mouth but to date no hands have been recorded as being bitten off.
Cappuccino, but only for breakfast
Here’s one of the best little foodie facts about Rome you can use to avoid faux pas. If you love your coffee with a bit of frothy milk at any time of the day, you may be frowned upon by the Romans. As they believe that fresh milk impairs digestion, the cappuccino is never drunk after 11am, or any meal for that matter.
A city of firsts & mosts
Here are a few unknown facts about Rome that include superlatives like “most” or “first”. Some of them are no-brainers while others are a bit more interesting to note.
First shopping mall
When we think of shopping malls, we consider the standards like the massive department stores in Seoul, but have you ever considered where the concept came about? You’ll find your answer in the Eternal City.
Emperor Trajan built the first ever shopping mall in Rome between 107-110 AD. The eponymous Trajan’s Market was a multi-level building with 150 rooms that sold a variety of goods and grocery items. There were also restaurants and libraries.
First to use concrete as a widespread tool
One of the most misrepresented facts about Rome is that they were the creators and first to use concrete. This is actually not true. Concrete is first recorded from 6500 BC where it was found in structures, floors and cisterns used by the Nabataea traders in Syria and Jordan. It was later found in around 3000 BC in Egypt used in the Great Pyramids at Giza and China to build the Great Wall.
Rome is recorded to have started using it in 600 BC. So while they weren’t the ones to create it or even the first to use it, they were the first to utilize the material widely. 2,000 year-old structures that used concrete are actually still standing today.
The first to reach 1 million citizens
The population of Rome (the city) today at roughly 3 million is meager in comparison to its peak which was around 90 million (within the Roman Empire)! In fact it was the first city to ever reach 1 million inhabitants which was recorded as early as 133 BC. London only reached this number in 1810.
One of the first to use bridge aqueducts
The word aqueduct comes from the Latin aqua (water) and ductus (led, guided). So its purpose is to carry water from one place to another.
While many places used underground aqueducts before, the Romans, along with those in Hampi in Karnataka in India, were the first to construct the above ground bridge channeling system, now known as Roman aqueducts, used to transport water for public baths and toilets.
First McDonald’s in Italy
Something a bit more modern is one of the Rome fun facts that the first ever McDonald’s was built in the Piazza di Spagna in Rome in March 1986 near the Spanish Steps. Many at the time were outraged, calling it an offense to Italy’s traditional food culture. There were protests from high-ranking intellectuals and television personalities. But in the end, the Golden Arches arrived.
Largest church in the world
One of the most well known facts about Rome is that it, or actually, the Vatican, holds the largest church in the entire world. St Peter’s basilica is the largest church ever constructed. It is also the most famous landmark in all of the Vatican City. Beyond all the tourists, Catholics especially find this site sacred as it is the place where the pope performs the liturgies. He blesses roughly 15,000 to 80,000 people on site per liturgy.
While the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro in the Ivory Coast is actually the largest church in the world due to having an exterior area of 30,000 sqm, St Peter’s beats it in both interior area and capacity. The Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea is the largest megachurch with a congregation approaching 800,000 people and 2,000 people attendanding each week.
Most visited & populated city in Italy
Previously we mentioned that Rome used to be immensely populated. While numbers today pale in comparison, it is still the most populated city in Italy with just under 3 million people. Milan comes next with around half this number.
It is also the most visited tourist spot in Italy, seeing around 9 million tourists flocking in at its peak. It is also the third most visited city after London and Paris. The Vatican Museums and the Colosseum each see just over 4 million visitors each year.
Spanish Steps are Italian & French
Probably one of the most famous places to visit in Rome is the Spanish Steps or Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti that provide a leisurely stroll of 135 steps from the Piazza di Spagna at the bottom to the Piazza Trinità dei Monti at the top where you’ll reach the Trinità dei Monti church.
So why is the set of 18th-century Baroque steps in the middle of Italy named after Spain? Maybe it’s due to the architect? Nope, the architects were Italians Francesco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi. Maybe it was funded by Spain? Wrong again. The steps were actually funded by the French diplomat Étienne Gueffier.
In actuality the gorgeous staircase got its name from the Piazza di Spagna where you can find the Fontana della Barcaccia, and was itself named after the adjacent Spanish Embassy to the Holy See.
The steps were featured in many films, most noticeably, The film Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, Bernardo Bertolucci’s Besieged and more recently The Talented Mr. Ripley starring Matt Damon.
- You can visit the steps on one of many tours around Rome depending on your travel style. Here are a few examples which you can book immediately online:
- Fountains and Piazzas Walking Tour with Pickup with Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps (2 hours). Book here.
- City Walking Tour in its Most Iconic Streets with Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, genuine gelato (3 hours). Book here.
- Baroque Rome Private Segway Tour with Baroque art and architecture, Bernini’s fountains and sculptures, Trevi Fountain, Saint Peter’s Basilica, Colosseum, Piazza Venezia, the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Navona Square etc. (3.5 hours). Book here.
- Rome by Golf Cart with Villa Borghese, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, the Colosseum, Campo de Fiori and Ghetto. Book here.
- Or just rent a Vespa for 12 hours here.
There is a museum for pasta
When you think of Italian food, we’re pretty sure the first thing that pops up is pizza, pasta and gelato! You may think of pasta as that cheap food you can find in the supermarket, but Italians take their pasta very seriously, usually made fresh at restaurants and is always delicious.
The Romans place so much importance on pasta that they have actually dedicated a museum to the stringy starchy substance. So another fun fact about Rome is that you can visit the Museo Nazionale della Pasta Alimentari (National Museum of Pasta Foods) which was established in 1993. You can learn all about the history of pasta, how it was first concocted, how it evolved and even a few works of art made of pasta, not your standard macaroni necklace.
The only thing you can’t do here is eat pasta. But that’s a good thing as there are plenty of restaurants you can visit.
We recommend going on a foodie tour like this Street Food Tour of the Monti neighborhood, another in Trastevere, or do an authentic Roman pasta workshop with a local chef so that you can take the delicious Roman-style pasta right into your home.
The Pantheon is pretty unique
One of Rome’s most visited sites with an annual number of roughly 7 million people, the Pantheon is a symbol and icon of the city and the source of many interesting facts about Rome. This means that there are various interesting facts about the Pantheon that you may want to know before you visit.
First constructed between 25 and 27 BC by Consul Marcus Agrippa under the reign of Emperor Augustus, the Pantheon’s original purpose was a temple dedicated to the twelve Gods and the Sovran.
The building we see today is structurally different from it’s first offering as it is said to have been reconstructed by Hadrian between 118 and 125 AD. Even with this reconstruction it is the only ancient Roman building that is practically unscathed. This is due to the use of a cement mixture of limestone and volcanic ash.
While the Pantheon was originally a pagan temple, in 608 Pope Boniface IV moved the remains of many martyrs from the Christian catacombs to the Pantheon where it became a Christian location and renamed Saint Maria ad Martyres.
On the dome there is an opening in the center called the oculus where light shines through. On April 21st, which is Rome’s birthday, the light shines perfectly vertical at noon, a sight to behold. It’s as if Apollo himself were casting the magnificent rays, how about that for an incredible Rome fact?
The Pantheon was such an inspiration to famed painter Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio) that he asked it to be his final resting place. So you can pay your respects to him when you visit.
Don’t forget your audio guide when visiting which can be booked online if you’re doing a solo tour of the premises. There are private tours available and tours that incorporate the surrounding squares and churches.
The Colosseum used to host wild animal fights
The other most visited destination in Rome, close to the Pantheon with 8 million visitors a year, the Colosseum is a staunch reminder of Rome’s past and deep historical value. It was a place of great spectacle and is officially one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
The famous amphitheater was first constructed under Vespasian’s son, Titus in 80 AD, but construction actually first began in 72 AD under Emperor Vespasian. They were both part of the Flavian Dynasty, so one of the most surprising facts about the Colosseum is that it’s original name was the Flavian Amphitheater. The name Colosseum only came later referring to the colossal statue of previous emperor Nero that stood outside.
Other than its impressive size and architecture, the Colosseum is probably most well known for its use as a gladiator battleground and this is one of the most incredible facts about Rome, that looks like they are taken out of a movie.
The Colosseum could apparently hold between 50,000 to 80,000 spectators who would come to watch the heroes often fight to the death. In fact, it is estimated that over 500,000 people and 1 million wild animals were killed on these grounds from it’s opening to its closing with the last gladiator battle in 435 AD.
Another one of the cool Colosseum facts is that occasionally it was flooded and used to host a naumachia or naval battle where the gladiators fought using actual ships. Now you can really understand the epic scale of this construction.
You can book your skip-the-line ticket of the Colosseum, Palatine Hill & Forum online right here.If you’d prefer to go on a tour there are plenty of them online with all kinds of durations, private and in groups, including many other sites of Rome. Click here to see all the best Colosseum tours.
The Roman Forum was a burial ground
When standing at the impressive forum, it’s quite easy to imagine how it was once the heart of Rome, bustling with people and traders. Yet before the center of the city, did you know that the Roman Forum was actually a swampy Etruscan burial ground?
It was actually drained in the 7th century BC thanks to the construction of the Cloaca Maxima, one of the world’s earliest sewage systems, letting the water flow into the Tiber.
Sitting in a small valley between the Palatine and Capitoline Hills, the Forum became the epicenter of Ancient Rome where it was mostly used as a market at first. Several more buildings were constructed around it like the Curia Julia (Senate House) and the Temple of Saturn whose remains overshadow the area. It then became a multi-purpose area where public events were held like public speeches, criminal trials or elections.
Other fun facts about the Roman Forum are that it fell into such neglect that in the Middle Ages, people referred to it as the Campo Vaccino, or Cow Field, before being excavated in the 18th and 19th centuries. Heads from executed rivals were also on display here, such as Cicero who was defeated by Marc Antony in 43 BC.
There is a Secret keyhole
Here’s a cute fact about Rome that you may find interesting to add to your itinerary. If you visit the Knight of the Malta gate on Aventine Hill, you will find a miniscule, worn-out keyhole on the ancient doors. Take a peek through it and you will be able to see the Vatican perfectly lined up with the garden. Planned or coincidence? No one knows.
Fun facts about Ancient Rome
There are no better facts about Rome than those that include its history. Below you will find all of the best Ancient Rome facts to gear you up with knowledge before your visit.
As mentioned previously, Rome’s current population stands at just under 3 million citizens. But at its peak it is said to have been home to between 50-90 million people, although the exact number is unknown.
Taken out of context, this is an epic number that seems highly unlikely. But remember that this number includes the entire Roman Empire which covered what is now several countries and three continents and over 5 million square kilometres.
Togas & stola
As you may have seen in many movies that depict the era (or maybe from a frat party), ancient Roman men wore a simple cloth draped over their bodies called togas.
What makes this an interesting fact about Rome is that not everybody got to wear one. This item of clothing was only provided to free-born men and was a sign of Roman citizenship. Foreigners and slaves were banned from draping themselves in a toga.
Roman women on the other hand changed from togas to the stola, which is more similar to a dress.
Goat fat & wood ashes
Roman women were very fashionable individuals. So much so that they even took to dying their hair red, blond and black. The method was to use some interesting ingredients like leeches, vinegar, goat fat and beech wood ashes.
One more fashion fact about Rome is that prostitutes were obligated by law to dye their hair blond so that they may be easily recognized.
The myth of the Vomitorium
It’s no secret that Romans love their food. And unfortunately, if you look at most Rome facts articles you’ll find the incorrect statement that Romans threw up their food so that they could fit more in.
This misconception is due to the unfortunate name of the “vomitorium”. While Seneca the Stoic once said, “they vomit so that they may eat, and eat so that they may vomit”, he was referring to the excesses of Roman indulgence, not to the actual act of vomiting.
So where does the name vomitorium come from? It was actually just a normal passageway in an amphitheater, allowing guests to get to their seats or leave. The queues seemed to flow out onto the streets from the vomitoria in the stadiums, hence the name. So this was not a purging room as previously thought. This is a great myth busting fact about Rome!
What is true is that they famously ate lying down on couches, leaning on their left arm and eating with their right.
It is said that the Ancient Romans had some seriously eclectic tastes. Delicacies at that time included flamingo tongues, stork and roast parrot. The usual gruel for everyday folk included stuffed dormice and pottage, a thick soup or stew made by boiling vegetables, grains and occasionally meat or fish.
This Rome fact is not for the squeamish. Early medicines and folk remedies use one main active ingredient: urine. As the active ingredient in pee is ammonia, it’s said to lift stains. The more ammonia and less water in your urine means a stronger stink.
While it seems logical to an ancient mind that this would be a good use for clothing, would you ever think to use urine to brush your teeth? This is exactly what the Romans did!
And before toilet paper was invented, the ancient Romans would make use of a wet sponge on the end of a stick called a xylospongium or tersorium, and running water.
The Roman Army was a force to be reckoned with. It was due to the historically fierce Roman Army that the empire was able to expand from the tiny city to over three continents including Asia Minor, northern Africa, and most of Europe. See below for the amazing expansion and decline.
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What’s more amazing and a surprising fact about the Roman Army is that they could march for 40km (25 miles) every single day. This is basically walking a full marathon every single day while carrying around 45kg with the odd battle along the way. While Roman legionaries trained their whole life, basic training was 4 months. Their motto: “Repetitio est mater studiorum” (repetition is the mother of studying).
The epic Saturnalia
This is probably the coolest fact about Ancient Rome on this list. There was a festival held annually on December 17 called Saturnalia. The festival was held in honor of the agricultural god Saturn.
In this epic festival, masters would trade places with their slaves originally for one day, but then it became one week. It seems strange that no grudges would be held, but slaves would be allowed to speak freely and even disrespect their masters without any fear of punishment.
But this didn’t happen throughout the empire, it was only in some cases and was for a festive spirit where homes were decorated with wreaths, drab togas were exchanged for colorful clothes and there was a general jovial atmosphere where they day was spent chilling out singing, feasting, socializing and exchanging gifts. It’s basically Christmas.
Facts about Rome & its questionable emperors
Rome is known as the birthplace of many modern day systems including being the basis for many laws in continental Europe and by extension, the world.
The senate was the state council of the ancient Roman republic and shared legislative power with other assemblies, administration with the magistrates, and judicial power with the knights. That’s why throughout Rome you will see the symbol SPQR, which stands for “Senatus Populusque Romanus” translating to “The senate and the people of Rome”.
Rising at the empire were its leaders, the Emperors and Senators who were adorned with purple, reserved only for the Roman Elite. The emperors were powerful, intellectual and extremely eccentric. Read more facts about the most well known Roman emperors below.
Crazy facts about Caesar
Julius Caesar was a dictator that led the people from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire. He was even proclaimed as “dictator perpetuo” (dictator for life), even though he only ruled from 49 BC to 44 BC before he was assassinated in the Curia of Pompey by a group of 60 senators, who famously included his close friend Brutus.
One funny fact about Caesar is that when captured by pirates in 75 BC, he was insulted by the amount his captors named as a ransom and insisted they up it. The more impressive amount was paid and Caesar was freed. He swiftly caught his captors directly after and executed them.
Caesar had a total of 3 wives and was noted womanizer. His most mistress was Cleopatra VII, the queen of Egypt. They apparently even had a son together known as Ptolemy Caesar or Caesarion (meaning little Caesar).
The leap year that we currently use today is said to have been created by Caesar after consulting with the astronomer Sosigenes in the Julian calendar. This was made up of 365 days which was in sync with the solar cycle, not the previously used lunar cycle. As the solar year is 365 and one quarter days long, Caesar added the additional day every four years and called it a leap day.
Gloomy facts about Tiberius
Beside epic Caesar, there are many other interesting facts about other Roman Emperors. Tiberius was a despotic fear monger, but also an amazing general. Ultimately he came to be remembered as the darkest, reclusive and most somber ruler. Pliny the Elder referred to him as “the gloomiest of men”. So much so that he cast a general shadow of fear among Rome’s citizens.
Tiberius is also mentioned several times in the Christian Bible as Jesus of Nazareth was crucified under the governance of Pontius Pilate at the time Tiberius was ruler. He was succeeded by his grand-nephew and adopted grandson, Caligula.
Weird facts about Caligula
Gaius Caligula was probably the most eccentric of the bunch and did some truly weird things. Apart from committing incest with his sister and having conversations with the moon, the things that make the top of the list include making his horse Incitatus a senator; He joked that Incitatus could do better at being a consul than most.
To stave off boredom, he asked his guards to throw a section of the crowd at the Colosseum into the arena between gladiatorial games, watching them being mauled and eaten by the wild animals.
He believed he was an actual god, replacing deities’ heads on statues with his own, and declared war on Neptune (god of the sea) after failing in Britain as he didn’t want to return to Rome defeated. The shells collected by his guards were seen as a sign of his winnings.
Interesting facts about Nero
Emperor Nero is most well known for being the tyrannous and debaucherous ruler during the Great Fire of Rome. He was so conniving that it was very risky to be in his close circle.
One of the craziest facts about Nero is that he order the death of his own mother, his first and possibly his second wife, and his tutor, the famous stoic philosopher Seneca whom he ordered to commit suicide after being found guilty of conspiracy to murder Nero.
Contrary to popular belief, he did not play the fiddle while Rome burned to the ground as he was not in Rome at the time nor was the fiddle invented yet. He was indeed praised in rebuilding much of Rome’s center of the fire. There was a mutual love and respect between Nero and the Greeks. They even postponed the Olympics by a year so that he could compete and he won many events (or he said he won at least).
Gladiators were celebrities
Gladiators are one of the most unique facts about Rome. While many gladiators did meet their demise in the arena of the Colosseum, a misunderstood fact about Roman gladiators is that not many actually fought to the death.
Gladiators were actually seen as celebrities in Ancient Rome, much like Maximus Decimus Meridius in the 2000 film The Gladiator with Russel Crowe as the titular character.
While they were famous, it is a far cry from the lives of celebrities in modern times. Gladiators were slaves after all and lived in very harsh conditions. These conditions inspired some rebellions like the one led by Spartacus.
One of the weirdest gladiator facts is that doctors would prescribe gladiator blood to epileptics as the energy of the gladiator was seen as being harnessed at the point of death and was then ingested as a cure.
The Roman Emperor Domitian often made female gladiators, or gladiatrix, fight topless or against dwarves. Nero was also a big fan of watching gladiatrix, but they were not very common.
There is a state within Rome
We count the Vatican City as a separate country in our list of 197 countries. In fact it is the smallest independent state (or country) in the world and is located right inside Rome and ruled by the pope.
In fact, The Vatican has been independent from Italy since 11 February 1929. It is a small space of 0.44 km² (0.17 square miles), so you may enter the Vatican without even knowing it.
There are 600 citizens that call the Vatican home, with most of them living abroad. Citizenship is not about birthrights, but rather special permission. Citizens include the Pope (obviously), cardinals, members of the Swiss Guard and the clergy, and one nun.
One of the lesser known facts about Rome and the Vatican is that there is a passage from the Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome right to the Vatican called the Passetto del Borgo. It’s raised above the ground and is therefore hidden in plain sight. It’s most notable use was during the siege of Rome in 1527, when Pope Clement VII used it to escape from Charles V’s army.
The Castle itself is quite impressive and contains many beautiful rooms decorated with frescoes, as well as a prison and a torture chamber.
The most famous landmark in the Vatican is housed in the Vatican Museum, and is known to the world as the Sistine Chapel.
It is estimated that roughly 5 million people visit it per year, which is roughly 25,000 people a day. It depicts the scenes as told in Genesis with the most memorable image of Adam touching the hand of God, titled “The Creation of Adam”.
The frescoe is Michelangelo’s masterpiece and was painted, contrary to popular belief, entirely standing up, not lying down. He actually invented a specific scaffolding which allowed him to stand while painting the ceiling. It was a grueling process nonetheless which Michelangelo did not like at all. One fact about the Sistine Chapel is that it took him 4 years to complete even though he didn’t want to paint it in the first place, seeing himself as a sculptor.
While the Vatican can be visited alone, we highly recommend that you take a guided tour as you will be led by an expert around the grounds, taken to unknown destinations and learn so much hidden history along the way. See a range of tours that you can book online here.
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