1. Colosseum, Rome
Rome’s Colosseum is the largest and probably most famous monument ever constructed during the Roman era. This mesmerizing amphitheater was begun by Vespasian in 72 AD. His son Titus completed the building work in 80 AD. It’s estimated that during the building’s first 100 days some 5,000 animals and 2,000 gladiators were killed while ‘performing’. In its heyday, 80 entrances could filter in 50,000 blood hungry spectators.
2. Baalbek, Lebanon
Baalbek, or Heliopolis (sun city), in northeastern Lebanon, contains three temples built from the 1st century BC, one to Jupiter, one to Bacchus, and one to Venus. The remains of the temple of Jupiter are evidence of what was once the largest temple in the Empire. Originally it was lined by 54 granite columns standing 70 feet tall. Of these, only six remain. Yet the smaller temple of Bacchus behind it is still well preserved.
3. Pantheon, Rome
The Pantheon was built in 126 AD as a temple for all (pan) of the Roman gods. Ever since the 7th century, though, the building has served to worship the one Christian God instead. The structure opens with a giant circular portico that is held up with three ranks of granite Corinthian columns. The portico leads to a rotunda, roofed with a concrete dome – the largest unreinforced dome in the world.
4. Pompeii, Italy
Pompeii was destroyed as a living city when in 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted, covering the town with soil and ash. Now, it’s as if the place has been frozen in time. If you visit you can see jars, tables, paintings, and even people, lying just as they were left. Pompeii provides an extraordinarily detailed picture of what life was like in ancient times and serves as a grizzly and sobering reminder of mortality and the passage of time.
5. Pont du Gard, France
The Pont du Gard is an ancient aqueduct once used by the Romans to carry fresh water to the city of Nimes, in modern day France. Each stone (some weigh up to six tons) had to be cut precisely since no mortar was available to fit them together. No longer used to ferry water, the aqueduct has spent much of the last millennium being used as a footbridge.
6. Amphitheater of El Djem, Tunisia
El Djem in Tunisia is the third largest amphitheater of the Ancient World, originally capable of hosting 35,000 spectators, it was built in the 3rd century AD. Today it looks good, but before the 17th century, it was even better. Unfortunately, many of the rocks were subsequently removed to be used in constructing the nearby village and mosque. You may have seen this amphitheater featured in the Hollywood movie picture, Gladiator.
7. Diocletian’s Palace, Croatia
Few people outside of Croatia are aware of this palace, built in the early 4th century AD by the retiring emperor Diocletian as his post-imperial residence. Here he whittled away his remaining days tending to his vegetable gardens. This marvelously maintained treasure of the ancient world eventually led to the creation of the modern city Split. This special building is believed to be the world’s best preserved Roman palace.
8. Verona Arena, Italy
Built in 30 AD, Verona’s stunning amphitheater continues to be used as a premier arena for cultural performances. You can attend the theater today to witness spectacular operas, but of course, the arena was originally used for bloody gladiatorial jousts. The onetime outer ring of pink and white limestone was sadly destroyed 900 years ago, but the inner part stands beautifully intact.
9. Pula Arena, Croatia
The Pula Arena is another fine example of the Roman expertise and liking for amphitheaters. Built in the 1st century AD for 26,000 spectators, Pula is probably the best-preserved monument in Croatia – and that’s saying something! At some point during the 15th century, many stones were taken from the structure to be used in the local city. But, fortunately, this practice has ceased. Today the arena hosts cultural festivities, particularly during the hot, summer months.
10. Aqueduct of Segovia, Spain