Beautiful Roman ruins around the world

Wonders of the ancient world It’s been over 1,500 years since the collapse of the Roman Empire, but our fascination with this creative, scientific and often barbaric society shows no signs of dimming with the passage of time. And no wonder: at its peak the empire covered nearly two […]


It’s been over 1,500 years since the collapse of the Roman Empire, but our fascination with this creative, scientific and often barbaric society shows no signs of dimming with the passage of time. And no wonder: at its peak the empire covered nearly two million square miles, spanning large swathes of Europe, Africa and even parts of Asia. There’s lots to see, so here we share fascinating photos of ancient marvels to help you step back in time.



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Pompeii was a city of great importance for the Roman Empire – many goods arrived here by sea and were distributed farther to Rome or southern Italy along the Appian Way. The flourishing city also became a cultural center in the region thanks to a wealth of new public buildings, including baths (pictured) and an amphitheater. Emperor Nero and his wife Poppaea are believed to have visited Pompeii in around AD 64, 15 years before the eruption, too.



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Immediately after the eruption, the city was buried under around 13 to 20 feet (4–6m) of volcanic ash and pumice, which helped preserve the city exactly as it was in that moment. When the city was excavated, it offered an extraordinary and very detailed snapshot of what life was like in Pompeii and in its wealthy private villas (pictured) with lavish decorations, furnishings and works of art.



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Also lost and destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius was Herculaneum, a neighboring town to Pompeii. While not as famous as its illustrious neighbor, Herculaneum is actually better preserved than Pompeii. The city was swiftly covered in 52.5 feet (16m) of ash after the eruption, preserving homes, jewelry, decorations and even organic remains like food, and leaving features in wood and marble intact.



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The city is named after the Greek god Hercules, and a legend told by Dionysius of Halicarnassus suggests he founded the city in 1243 BC. However, it has since been revealed that Herculaneum was founded in the 7th century BC by the Oscans or the Etruscans. The city functioned as a kind of resort destination for many of Rome’s wealthy families thanks to its mild climate, coastal location and sunny skies.



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The College of the Augustales (pictured) is one the most complete buildings in the city, but the most famous is the Villa of the Papyri. A luxurious retreat for Julius Caesar’s father-in-law, most of the villa is still underground, but a large number of outstanding works of art, including frescoes and bronze and marble statues, have already been uncovered. Interestingly, the Getty Villa in Los Angeles was inspired by the blueprints of this ancient home.



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Hadrian’s Wall runs for 73 miles (117km) and an estimated 10% of the original structure is still visible. Many wrongly believe that it marks the border between England and Scotland, but the wall pre-dates both kingdoms. In fact, parts of Cumbria and much of Northumberland lie north of the wall.



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In a serene Albanian forest, surrounded by trees, hills and lakes, you’ll find Butrint, one of Albania’s most important archaeological sites set in its own national park. Not only was this city a Roman colony established by Julius Caesar in around 44 BC, but it had been part of Ancient Greece in the centuries before.



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These beautiful ruins have stood still through much of history. Once thriving, the city was damaged in an earthquake in the 3rd century AD, later served as a Byzantine outpost to fend off assaults from the Normans, and eventually experienced its worst decline during Venetian rule. The city, then known as Buthrotum, was left ruinous no later than 1572 due to the wars between Venice and the Ottoman Empire.



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One of Butrint’s most beautiful ruins is the incredibly well-preserved mosaic floor of the Baptistery of Butrint. Constructed in the 6th century, the original structure was most likely part of a bathhouse or a household bathing complex and the mosaics were laid by artisans from Nicopolis – a major Roman city in the region.



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With a deep natural port and nearby silver mines to the east, it’s easy to see why this city in southeast Spain was of huge strategic importance to the Romans, who took it from the Carthaginians in 209 BC. While there’s not much evidence of a Roman past left in Cartagena, its incredible Roman Theatre has been well preserved and is the second largest in the country.



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If you’ve ever wondered why all roads lead to Rome, The Appian Way, or Via Appia, might have had something to do with it. The original stretch was a military route that ran from Rome to Capua in southern Italy. Started in around 312 BC, it took until roughly 264 BC to finish and it was named after Appius Claudius Caecus, who started the project. The finished road ran a total of 350 miles (563km) all the way from the Roman Forum to modern day Brindisi in Italy’s heel.



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Today, the first 10 miles (16km) of the ancient road are part of a regional park, Parco dell’Appia Antica, leading southeast from Rome. There are several notable monuments along the road as well, including the Porta Appia, several tombs and mausoleums, as well as remains of thermal baths, making you feel like you’ve stepped right back in time to ancient Rome.



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Ostia Antica, lying around 15 miles (24km) southwest of the Italian capital close to the modern town of Ostia, was once the great harbor city of ancient Rome. The city was greatly developed during Julius Caesar’s time as a magistrate of the Roman Republic, improving the grain supply to Rome, which ensured the city’s prosperity in the future.



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During its peak as a city, between the 2nd and 3rd centuries, Ostia Antica had a population of around 100,000 people. However, it entered centuries of decline and was largely abandoned by the 9th century. The well-preserved ruins were mined for marble during the Renaissance to be used for the palazzi (grand residences) in Rome and soon after the ancient city was looted for statues and historical objects. The excavated site is now a major attraction with an on-site museum.



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The amphitheater was used mostly for gladiatorial combat and wild animal fights, but mock sea battles and dramas based on Classical mythology were also performed here. Inside, a maze of underground passages can still be clearly seen today. These were used by gladiators, animals and actors, who would wait before appearing in the middle of the arena via a trap door.



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