How Large Was the City of Rome in Ancient Times?

Rome is one of the most iconic and influential cities in history, known for its art, architecture, politics, and culture. But just how large was the city of Rome in ancient times? In this article, we’ll explore the size and scope of the ancient city using historical records, archaeological evidence, and modern mapping technology.

The Early City

Rome was founded in the 8th century BCE by a group of shepherds who settled on the banks of the Tiber River. The original settlement was small and consisted of only a few huts and a fortified hilltop known as the Capitoline Hill. Over time, as Rome grew in power and influence, so too did its physical boundaries.

The Republican Period

During the Republican period (509-27 BCE), Rome expanded rapidly through conquest and colonization. The city was divided into several regions known as “regi” or “tribes,” each with its own distinctive character and layout. The most important of these regions were the Palatine Hill (home to many aristocratic families), the Esquiline Hill (a densely populated area), and the Suburra (a working-class neighborhood).

By the end of this period, Rome had grown to encompass an area of approximately 1300 hectares (3200 acres). This included not only residential neighborhoods but also public spaces such as forums, temples, theaters, and markets.

The Imperial City

The Imperial period (27 BCE-476 CE) saw even greater expansion for Rome. Under emperors such as Augustus and Trajan, new infrastructure projects were undertaken to improve transportation and communication within the city.

One of the most significant developments was the construction of aqueducts to supply water to Rome’s growing population. These massive structures allowed for a more abundant water supply that could support not only households but also public baths, fountains, and gardens.

During this period, Rome’s population is estimated to have reached a peak of around one million people. This made it one of the largest and most densely populated cities in the world at the time.

Mapping Rome

Today, we can use modern mapping technology to better understand the size and layout of ancient Rome. One such tool is the Digital Augustan Rome Project, which uses 3D modeling to recreate the city as it appeared in 320 CE.

This model shows that ancient Rome was a sprawling metropolis with a complex network of streets, buildings, and public spaces. It also highlights the city’s natural boundaries, such as the Tiber River to the west and hills to the east, north, and south.


In conclusion, the city of Rome in ancient times was a dynamic and ever-changing entity. From its humble beginnings as a small settlement on the Tiber River to its status as one of the largest cities in history, Rome’s growth was driven by a combination of conquest, colonization, and urban planning.

Through historical records, archaeological evidence, and modern mapping technology, we can gain a better understanding of just how large and influential this ancient city truly was. Whether you’re interested in history or simply curious about how cities evolve over time, there’s no denying that Rome remains an enduring symbol of human achievement.