Category Archives: ITALY

‘Vampire’ discovered in a mass grave

‘Vampire’ discovered in a mass grave

What may have been an exorcism of a vampire in Venice is now drawing bad blood among scientists arguing over whether gravediggers were attempting to defeat an undead monster.

'Vampire' discovered in a mass grave
The skull of the “vampire of Venice,” found in a mass grave with a brick stuck in its jaw

The controversy begins with a mass grave of 16th-century plague victims on the Venetian island of Nuovo Lazzaretto. The remains of a woman there apparently had a brick shoved in her mouth, perhaps to exorcise the corpse in what may have been the first vampire burial known in archaeology, said forensic anthropologist Matteo Borrini of the University of Florence in Italy.

Vampire superstitions were common when plague devastated Europe, and much, if not all, of this folklore, could be due to misconceptions about the natural stages of decomposition, Borrini said.

The recently dead can often appear unnervingly alive. As the corpse’s skin shrinks and pulls back, for example, hair and nails may appear to grow after death.

The remains of the woman were apparently wrapped in a shroud, based on the position of her collarbone, Borrini suggested. A corpse might appear to have chewed through its shroud because of corrosive fluids it spewed as it decayed, perhaps frightening gravediggers into thinking it was a vampire.

Vampire myths link the monsters with contagions, and the plague ran rampant in Venice in 1576, killing as many as 50,000 people, nearly a third of the city, including famed Renaissance artist Titian.

The gravediggers that ran across this corpse may have wanted to prevent a vampire from ravaging the city further with pestilence, Borrini and his colleague Emilio Nuzzolese suggested in the Journal of Forensic Sciences in 2010. The “vampire” has since been discussed on Italian national TV and a National Geographic documentary.

However, now other researchers are openly deriding this claim. Where some might see an exorcism, these researchers see a brick accidentally falling into a skull’s mouth.

The dig site reveals a mass grave with the “vampire” indicated and, inset, a 3D model of the skeleton with brick “

“I find surprising that the reviewers of an important journal such as the Journal of Forensic Sciences had given permission to publish the article of Nuzzolese and Borrini with inadequate scientific evidence to support their hypothesis,” physical anthropologist Simona Minozzi at the University of Pisa in Italy told LiveScience.

To start with, photos of the site where the purported vampire was found show her remains were surrounded by stones, bricks and tiles, Minozzi said.

They also note the jaws of corpses often gape open, allowing any number of items to fall in — for instance, they note a skeleton with a thighbone in its mouth was found in the cemetery of Vecchio Lazzaretto in Venice.

They also note there is no clear evidence of a shroud, as coffin walls might also explain the position of the collarbone. They add that the legend of the so-called nachzehrer, or “shroud-eaters,” were apparently tightly confined to the East German region and not Italy. Minozzi and her colleagues detailed their argument in the May issue of the Journal of Forensic Sciences.

Minozzi called the vampire idea “nonsense.” “Unfortunately, this is a common practice in the last few years in Italy,” she said. “This is probably due to the strong cutting of funds for research in Italy, so researchers seek to attract attention and money through sensational discoveries that often have little to do with science.”

Borrini and his colleagues strongly rebut the argument over their analysis. They discussed how the physical details of the site supported their interpretation in a response in the May issue of the Journal of Forensic Sciences, and that while the legend of the nachzehrer was found in Germanic areas, Venice was a crossroads during the epoch in which such legends from distant lands might have circulated.

“Regarding the criticism of my Italian colleagues, I have to admit that it’s a quite unpleasant situation,” Borrini said. “It seems that the main reasons for the interest in my research are its mass media success. Well, I want to be clear regarding this — I never looked for the media.”

World War I Soldiers’ Artifacts Found in Alpine Cave

World War I Soldiers’ Artifacts Found in Alpine Cave

According to a CNN report, continuing glacier melt has revealed additional World War I artefacts in a cave near the peak of Mount Scorluzzo in northern Italy. Twenty Austrian soldiers took shelter in the cave, which is located near the strategic Stelvio Pass, and camouflaged it from aerial view.

A lantern was among the items to be found in the melted ice.

While people knew the shelter existed, researchers were only able to enter it in 2017 as the surrounding glacier had melted, added Morosini, who is the scientific coordinator of the heritage project at Stelvio National Park and teaches at the University of Bergamo.

Inside they found food, dishes and jackets made from animal skins, among many other items, he said.

The cave shelter in northern Italy was accessible to researchers after the surrounding glacier had melted.

The artefacts illustrate the “very poor daily life” of the soldiers, who had to deal with “extreme environmental conditions,” said Morosini. Winter temperatures could drop to -40 degrees Celsius (-40 degrees Fahrenheit), he added.

“Soldiers had to fight against the extreme environment, fight against the snow or the avalanches, but also fight against the enemy,” Morosini said.

“The artefacts are a representation, like a time machine, of… the extreme conditions of life during the First World War,” he said, adding that more items appear in the area every summer as the glacier melts.

“It’s a sort of open-air museum,” said Morosini, who said that five years ago the bodies of two soldiers were found, along with documents that allowed them to be identified and their remains were given to their families.

The cave shelter housed Austrian soldiers stationed at Mount Scorluzzo.
A variety of items were found, including bottles and tins.

The artefacts from the cave shelter are being preserved and will form part of the collection, due to open in late 2022, at a museum dedicated to World War I in the northern Italian town of Bormio, said Morosini.

The shelter was occupied in the first days of the war by Austrian troops, who made it completely invisible from the Italian side or from aerial observation, according to a statement from White War Museum, located in Adamello, northern Italy.

It sits at an altitude of 3,094 meters (10,151 feet), just below the peak of Mount Scorluzzo, and excavation work has been carried out each July and August since 2017, removing around 60 cubic meters of ice from the cave.

The view of the Stelvio glacier from Mount Scorluzzo.

A total of 300 objects were recovered, including straw mattresses, coins, helmets, ammunition and newspapers.

“The findings in the cave on Mount Scorluzzo give us, after over a hundred years, a slice of life at over 3,000 meters above sea level, where the time stopped on November 3, 1918, when the last Austrian soldier closed the door and rushed downhill,” reads the museum’s press release.

Marble Head of Augustus Unearthed in Southern Italy

Marble Head of Augustus Unearthed in Southern Italy

Artnews reports that a marble head of the Roman emperor Augustus (r. 27 B.C.–A.D. 14) was unearthed in southern Italy’s region of Molise by a team of researchers led by archaeologist Francesca Giancola. 

The sculpture, which has lost its body and nose was discovered while renovating Isernia’s historic city walls – built during the imperial Rome period.

It was identified as Augustus, adopted son of Julius Caesar and Rome’s first emperor, by its distinctive facial features and hairstyle. The bust is not rare as dozens of statues, busts and coins of Augustus have been discovered from Roman times.

But researchers say the discovery proves the Romans’ presence in the ancient colony, known at the time as Aesernia, which once held strategic importance as a gateway to the rest of Italy.

The marble head, which is in fairly good condition, was discovered along the Via Occidentale by a construction crew last Thursday. 

A head depicting Roman emperor Augustus was uncovered last week during renovations to Isernia’s historic city walls

No definitive date for the sculpture has been announced but the depiction in line with the Augustus of Primaporta, a well-known marble statue of the emperor dating to 20 BC. 

Archaeologists are confident it is Augustus, due to his iconic ‘swallow-tail hairstyle – thick strands of hair parted in a distinctive V-shape, with protruding ears and broadly spaced locks, isNews reports.

‘Yes, it is really him, the emperor Augustus, found today during the excavation,’ the Archaeological Superintendency of Molise wrote on Facebook. 

Augustus was always presented as clean-shaven and, though he lived to 76, as a man in his late teens or early 20s. 

He ruled Rome from 27 B.C. until his death in 14 A.D, overseeing the expansion of the empire into Egypt and other parts of Africa and establishing both a standing army and the Praetorian Guard.

In 295 BC, Rome wrested control of Isernia away from the Samnites, an ancient Italic people in south-central Italy.

Key to access to the rest of the country, the town briefly fell back into the Samnites’ hands in 90 BC, before reverting to Roman authority a few years later.

Roman forces levelled most of the city and rebuilt it as a Roman outpost, with both Caesar and Augustus trying to establish colonies there. Isernia’s ancient city walls, some of which were constructed under imperial Rome, are in serious need of repair.

The marble head was discovered after part of one wall collapsed, according to ANSA. But suggestions to reinforce them with concrete pillars have been met with criticism.

‘[That] solution was not feasible, not in the least because the piling would have risked destroying the foundation of the walls and any traces of ancient presence in the area,’ superintendent Dora Catalano and archaeologist Maria Diletta Colombo told isNews.

Instead, they’re looking for a less invasive way to strengthen the walls without disturbing their artistic and historical value.

According to isNews, the head will eventually go on display at Isernia’s Museum of Santa Maria Delle Monache.

The sunken Roman city now lies beneath the waves off of Italy

The sunken Roman city now lies beneath the waves off of Italy

The sunken city of the Caesars, which has been lost beneath the waves off Italy’s west coast for 1,700 years, has been revealed in stunning new photographs taken by divers who were given permission to explore the region. According to historians, Baiae was ancient Rome’s Las Vegas for the super-rich, with sprawling mansions and a reputation for luxury and wickedness.

Baiae was the Las Vegas for the super-rich of ancient Rome, covered in sprawling mansions and synonymous with luxury and wickedness, historians claim. The 1st Century city has been revealed in stunning new photographs taken by divers who were allowed to explore the area

However, when volcanic activity forced the coastline to retreat 400 meters inland, driving the entire city underwater into what is now the Gulf of Naples in modern-day Italy, most of it was lost to the sea. The site has since been re-discovered, 1,700 years after disappearing beneath the waves on the west coast of Italy. Divers were allowed to explore the site recently and snapped photos of the treasures that can still be found in the underwater city.

Antonio Busiello, who lives in Naples, photographed the site and found that roads, walls, mosaics, and even statues had survived the ravages of time.

Incredibly, parts of the city are still in-tact 1,700 years later. Pictured above, a diver shows off a tiled floor that was discovered in a search of the city

The 45-year-old said: ‘The beautiful mosaics and the villas and temples that have reemerged or still underwater show the opulence and wealth of this area.

‘It was considered one of the most important Roman cities for centuries. Pliny the Younger used to live here and from here, across the gulf, he witnessed and described the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum.’ 

He added: ‘Diving here is like a dive into history, looking at ancient Roman ruins underwater is something hard to describe, a beautiful experience indeed.’

The sunken Roman city now lies beneath the waves off of Italy
Among the sights now visible are the Pisoni and Protiro villas, where intricate white mosaics as well as residential rooms can be seen

In its heyday, Baiae was frequented by famous Romans including Julius Caesar, Nero, Pompey the Great, Marius, and Hadrian – who died there. Among the sights now visible are the Pisoni and Protiro villas, where intricate white mosaics, as well as residential rooms, can be seen.

There’s also the Nymphaeum of Punta Epitaffio, where divers swim among the statues of Ulysses and his helmsman Baius, for whom Baiae was named. A documentary released earlier this year, titled Rome’s Sunken Secrets, followed a series of dives led by underwater archaeologist Dr. Barbara Davidde and involving historians and scientists from across the world. They revealed vast villas, priceless statues, and breathtaking mosaics, as well as heated spas, cobbled streets, and even a nymphaeum – a grotto of pleasure – in the city that lies 150 miles south of Rome and 50 north of Pompeii

Walls of estates in the ancient city sit just below the water’s surface off the coast of western Italy. Divers can now explore the region

One significant find was a section of lead water pipe just a few inches in diameter inscribed ‘L Pisonis’. This pinpoints the exact location where one of the greatest scandals in Roman history unfolded. As classics professor Kevin Dicus explains, ‘L Pisoni’s was the mark of the Piso family. The villa it was attached to was almost certainly the property of Gaius Calpurnius Piso, who was a close friend of Emperor Nero.

‘Ancient texts tell us that Piso plotted to murder the emperor at his holiday villa in Baiae so he could become emperor instead, but he had a change of heart at the last minute. When Nero learned about the plan, he ordered Piso to commit suicide.

The sunken city of the Caesars, lost for 1,700 years beneath waves off of Italy’s west coast, has been revealed in stunning new photographs taken by divers who were allowed to explore the area. Baiae was the Las Vegas for the super-rich of the 1st Century’s ancient Rome, covered in sprawling mansions and synonymous with luxury and wickedness, historians claim.

But as time passed, much of it was lost to the sea as volcanic activity caused the coastline to retreat 400metres inland, forcing the entire city underwater into what is now the Gulf of Naples in modern-day Italy. The site has since been re-discovered, 1,700 years after disappearing beneath the waves on the west coast of Italy. Divers were allowed to explore the site recently and snapped photos of the treasures that can still be found in the underwater city.

Antonio Busiello, who lives in Naples, photographed the site and found that roads, walls, mosaics, and even statues had survived the ravages of time. The 45-year-old said: ‘The beautiful mosaics and the villas and temples that have reemerged or still underwater show the opulence and wealth of this area.

‘It was considered one of the most important Roman cities for centuries. Pliny the Younger used to live here and from here, across the gulf, he witnessed and described the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum.’ 

He added: ‘Diving here is like a dive into history, looking at ancient Roman ruins underwater is something hard to describe, a beautiful experience indeed.’ In its heyday, Baiae was frequented by famous Romans including Julius Caesar, Nero, Pompey the Great, Marius, and Hadrian – who died there.

Among the sights now visible are the Pisoni and Protiro villas, where intricate white mosaics, as well as residential rooms, can be seen. There’s also the Nymphaeum of Punta Epitaffio, where divers swim among the statues of Ulysses and his helmsman Baius, for whom Baiae was named. A documentary released earlier this year, titled Rome’s Sunken Secrets, followed a series of dives led by underwater archaeologist Dr. Barbara Davidde and involving historians and scientists from across the world.

They revealed vast villas, priceless statues, and breathtaking mosaics, as well as heated spas, cobbled streets, and even a nymphaeum – a grotto of pleasure – in the city that lies 150 miles south of Rome and 50 north of Pompeii.  One significant find was a section of lead water pipe just a few inches in diameter inscribed ‘L Pisonis’. This pinpoints the exact location where one of the greatest scandals in Roman history unfolded.

As classics professor Kevin Dicus explains, ‘L Pisoni’s was the mark of the Piso family. The villa it was attached to was almost certainly the property of Gaius Calpurnius Piso, who was a close friend of Emperor Nero.

‘Ancient texts tell us that Piso plotted to murder the emperor at his holiday villa in Baiae so he could become emperor instead, but he had a change of heart at the last minute. When Nero learned about the plan, he ordered Piso to commit suicide.

‘So we now know where the assassination attempt would have taken place. For the archaeologists, it was like finding the Holy Grail.’

Piso’s villa had its own jetty and two huge bath complexes, but that was nothing compared to the opulence at another estate the team discovered.  Slowly revealed over many dives was a mansion so luxurious archaeologists believe it was the Imperial Villa specially built for Emperor Claudius.

‘So we now know where the assassination attempt would have taken place. For the archaeologists, it was like finding the Holy Grail.’ Piso’s villa had its own jetty and two huge bath complexes, but that was nothing compared to the opulence at another estate the team discovered. 

Slowly revealed over many dives was a mansion so luxurious archaeologists believe it was the Imperial Villa specially built for Emperor Claudius.

The broken Amphorae of monte testaccio in Rome

The broken Amphorae of monte testaccio in Rome

An immense mound overgrown with grass and small trees sits on the outskirts of Rome, near the Horrea Galbae, a short distance from the east bank of the River Tiber. It may seem to be just another hill, but it is actually an ancient landfill from the Roman era and one of the largest landfill of the ancient world.

It has a circumference of nearly a kilometre at its base covering an area of 20,000 square meters, and it stands 35 meters tall, though it was probably a lot higher in ancient times.

The hill is made entirely out of discarded Roman amphorae, a type of ceramic jar used to store olive oil. It has been estimated that the hill contains the remains of as many as 53 million olive oil amphorae, in which some 6 billion litres of oil were imported.

In ancient times, amphorae were the main containers used for transportation and storage of goods. They were massively produced because of their low cost and were usually recycled or destroyed once they reached their final destination.

Many amphorae were re-used to serve as drain pipes or flower pots, for instance. Broken amphorae were pounded into chips and mixed with concrete and widely used as a building material.

But the amphorae olive jars could not be recycled as they were too impregnated with oil which made them smelly and sticky. So they were dumped in landfills.

Monte Testaccio was not a haphazard waste dump, but a highly organized and carefully engineered refuse site. Excavations revealed that the mound had been raised as a series of level terraces with retaining walls made of nearly intact amphorae filled with shards to anchor them in place.

View of the Testaccio district of Rome, 1625.

Empty amphorae were probably carried up the mound intact on the backs of donkeys or mules and then broken up on the spot, with the shards laid out in a stable pattern. Lime was then spread over the broken jars to neutralize the smell of rotting oil.

The huge numbers of broken amphorae at Monte Testaccio illustrate the enormous demand for oil of imperial Rome, which was at the time the world’s largest city with a population of at least one million people.

Many of the amphorae still have the maker’s seal and other stamped inscriptions which record information such as the weight of the oil contained in the vessel, the place where it was bottled, who weighted it and the names of the exporter.

Studies of these inscriptions and the hill’s composition suggest Rome’s imports of olive oil reached a peak towards the end of the 2nd century AD when as many as 130,000 amphorae were being deposited on the site each year. It has been estimated that Rome was importing at least 7.5 million litres of olive oil annually.

Monte dei Cocci.
Types of Roman amphorae at Bodrum castle (Turkey) . 
The amphorae fragments were placed in an organized way.
Roman tituli picti from amphorae found at Monte Testaccio, Rome. From H. Dressel, Ricerche sul Monte Testaccio, Annali dell’Instituto di Correspondenza Archeologica [1878], plate L.
Broken amphorae on Monte Testaccio.

The Sword in the Stone at Montesiepi Chapel

The Sword in the Stone at Montesiepi Chapel

The sword trapped in stone, only to be freed by a future king’s forceful grip, is an essential part of King Arthur mythology. The question of whether there’s a historical basis for Arthur in the mists of chaotic Dark Ages Britain has haunted many historians, writers, and treasure seekers. Bits and pieces of the Arthur legend have been analyzed endlessly to see if some real person or place might fit.

Montesiepi chapel in Tuscany.

In a version of the story, Merlin foretold that only a true king was worthy to draw the sword, and when a boy, Arthur, is the one who succeeds in doing it, he reveals himself to be the son of the brave king Uther Pendragon. That sword then becomes Arthur’s powerful weapon, called Excalibur.

But what if the inspiration for the tale of the sword in the stone comes not from England but Italy, and the proof of that can be found in a 12th century stone still thrust into the bedrock in Tuscany?

The Sword in the Stone of Saint Galgano can be seen today, in the Montesiepi chapel southwest of Siena. It was long a curiosity: Only the hilt, wooden grip and a few inches of the three-foot-long blade are visible to be seen in the chapel of a Cistercian abbey.

The story was that it was thrust into the stone by an Italian knight, Galgano Guidotti after he renounced war to become a hermit in 1180.

For years the sword was suspected of being some sort of fake. However, recent scientific tests dealt a surprise to skeptics. The metal of the sword was confirmed to be from the 12th century.

“Dating metal is a very difficult task, but we can say that the composition of the metal and the style are compatible with the era of the legend,” said Luigi Garlaschelli, of the University of Pavia, in an interview with The Guardian.

Interior of Montesiepi chapel, with the sword in the stone under the clear case.

“We have succeeded in refuting those who maintain that it is a recent fake.”

The sword from the medieval era and ground-penetrating radar analysis revealed that beneath the sword, there is a cavity that could be a burial recess, possibly containing a body.  “To know more we’d have to excavate,” said Garlaschelli.

The Italian academic Mario Moiraghi wrote a book suggesting that the stone’s Arthurian legend was inspired by the Tuscany sword.

Rotonda of Montesiepi chapel, with the sword in the stone below.

A 13th century English book about Merlin and the sword obviously came after the existence of the Italian sword in the stone, as did Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur in the 14th century. However, Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote about Arthur, Merlin, and Excalibur, called Caliburnus (or Caliburn), in Historia, completed in 1138.

Moiraghi said in an interview, “The sword which, having being plunged into the stone becomes a cross; this is a true symbol of the Christian life — the transformation of violence into love.”

In the same chapel are two mummified hands; scientific testing has revealed that they too date to the 12th century. According to legend, anyone who tries to steal the sword in the Tuscany chapel would have his arms ripped off.

The sword in the Stone at Montesiepi Chapel, San Galgano.

The knight, Galgano, was the son of a feudal lord known for his arrogance and violence when he had a vision of the Archangel Michael inviting him to change his life.

Galgano supposedly decided that he should become a hermit. As he climbed the mountain where he would devote his life to contemplation, a voice told him he had to leave all traces of worldly sin, to which the saint replied, “It would be easier to cut a stone with this sword to do that.”

When Galgano stuck his sword in the rock to prove his point, the sword sank smoothly. It went into the rock as if it were as soft as butter, the story goes.

Galgano was a hermit for the rest of his life. Four years after his death he was canonized and a chapel was built around the sword.

Archaeologists discover ancient Rome may have been much larger than previously believed

Archaeologists discover ancient Rome may have been much larger than previously believed

The discovery made in 2015 of a large, 2500-year-old residence, in the central part of Rome, points to the possibility that the ancient city was considerably bigger than previously thought during its archaic period.

Found on the Quirinal Hill, somewhere between modern-day Via Veneto street and the Termini train station, the ancient rectangular house is remarkably well-intact, complete with clay-smeared walls, wooden beams and even a roof.

Although currently the location of the official residence of Italy’s Head of State, Sergio Mattarella, the Quirinal Hill was originally included within the city’s borders during the reign of the sixth Roman king, Servius Tullius.

Tullius was known for instituting the famous Servian Constitution, which made a departure from the ‘tribal’ institutions of curia and gentes and divided the society into five different classes (classis) according to wealth.

In any case, up until now, historians believed that the Quirinal was a sacred place, housing a number of temples and also a necropolis.

Ancient ruins on Quirinal Hill, Rome. Representational image.

The residential areas, it was previously thought, were situated close to the Forum, towards the south of the city. Speaking about the find, Francesco Prosperetti, of the Archaeological Heritage of Rome, said (in 2015):

This is an exceptional find, among the most important of the last 10 years… The remains of this house from the beginning of the sixth century BC is an almost unparalleled example of ancient archaic architecture in this city.

Constructed atop a commonly-found volcanic stone, known as tufa, the newly-uncovered house consisted of two rooms, with the porch acting as the main entrance. Further, the site contains several distinct clues that suggest the building was used for residential purposes.

According to Mirella Serlorenzi, the head of the excavation team, it could have been the residence of a custodian in charge of looking after a nearby temple, which was unearthed back in 2013. Serlorenze said:

At the beginning of the sixth century BC, Rome was much larger than we previously thought before this latest discovery.

In addition to being centered at the Forum, archaic Rome, researchers think, was spread over a much larger area than originally believed.

Darius Arya, an archaeologist who was then involved with the excavation works at Ostia Antica, added:

Many grand projects of restoration going on now are focused on the monuments we know, like the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain, but there is much of Rome’s history that is not so well-preserve. What is so amazing is that this discovery dates back to Archaic Rome, a crucial period – the regal period — that made Rome so great.

An impressive re-creation of ancient Rome Life in 3D – Amazing Work

An impressive re-creation of ancient Rome Life in 3D & VR Experience Restores 7,000 Roman Buildings

“Rome Reborn” currently features site-specific tours of the Roman forum and the Basilica Maxentius (Rome Reborn)

Ever wish you could step into a hot air balloon, travel back in time to 320 A.D., and soar over the streets of Ancient Rome? Well, that oddly specific fantasy is achievable in a new virtual reality experience called “Rome Reborn.

An impressive re-creation of ancient Rome Life in 3D – Amazing Work
Credit: www.relivehistoryin3d.com
Porticus Divorum, Credit: www.relivehistoryin3d.com
Porticus Minucia Frumentaria and Theatrum Balbi, Credit: www.relivehistoryin3d.com
Aedes Herculis Musarum, Credit: www.relivehistoryin3d.com
Saepta Julia and porticus Meleagri, Credit: www.relivehistoryin3d.com

The ambitious undertaking, painstakingly built by a team of 50 academics and computer experts over a 22-year period, recreates 7,000 buildings and monuments scattered across a 5.5 square mile stretch of the famed Italian city. The project, according to Tom Kington of the Times, is being marketed as the largest digital reconstruction of Rome to date.

Director Bernard Frischer, a digital archaeologist at Indiana University, tells Agence France-Presse that “Rome Reborn” features multiple VR experiences: You can opt for a whirlwind flyover tour of the city or stop by a specific site, such as the Roman forum or the Basilica of Maxentius.

For now, the forum and basilica are the only two landmarks available for in-depth exploration, but tours of the Colosseum, the Pantheon and other top attractions are expected to debut this year or next.

The “Flight Over Ancient Rome” experience, currently available via VR headsets and computers, takes participants on a roughly two-hour highlights tour that includes stops at more than 35 points of interest, including the imperial fora and palace, the Circus Maximus, and the tombs of emperors Augustus and Hadrian.

Iseum Campense , Credit: www.relivehistoryin3d.com
Credit: www.relivehistoryin3d.com

All of these sites are seen from above, providing a unique aerial perspective the website touts as a chance to see “how the individual buildings and monuments fit into a larger pattern of urban organization.”

Comparatively, the two site visits place users in the driver’s seat, affording them the freedom to roam through reconstructed streets and halls while learning key facts via a helpful in-app tour guide.

The Basilica of Maxentius, a monumental civic building commissioned by the emperor Maxentius prior to his defeat at the hands of rival Constantine, is particularly impressive due to its vibrant interior and restored statue of the conquering emperor, who later oversaw the Roman Empire’s transition into a Christian state.

The Forum, a marketplace of sorts that served as the centre of the ancient city, also reveals impressive attention to detail: As archaeologist Paolo Liverani of the University of Florence explains to the Times’ Kington, researchers used studies on the flooring of the Forum—including an illustration found on the Arch of Constantine—to render the virtual model accurately.

Credit: www.relivehistoryin3d.com
Baths of Caracalla: Credit: www.relivehistoryin3d.com

VR experts even collaborated with historians to ensure that sunlight correctly bounced off of the Forum’s gold-gilded statues.

Frischer tells AFP that he and his colleagues chose to set their virtual world in 320 A.D. because they had the most information on that period, which allowed them to go into greater detail.

Additionally, he explains, the year represented a critical turning point for Rome, as it experienced a burst of architectural energy and saw its population cross the 1 million thresholds.

Credit: www.relivehistoryin3d.com

Just 10 years later, Constantine moved the imperial capital east to Constantinople, signalling the end of Rome’s position as the centre of the empire.

Today, little of the sumptuous world seen in “Rome Reborn” remains, a fact emphasized by the app’s “Time Warp” feature. By toggling between the structures’ past glory and present-day dilapidation, history lovers gain an even greater appreciation of just what was achieved during Rome’s glory days.