A Virtual Ancient City

Aqueduct of Segovia

It was a long tedious drive from Ephesus to Pamukkale and thinking about the Ephesus experience I thought it would be fun to recall all of the other ancient sites that I have visited and assemble a near perfect virtual ancient city.

Approaching the city the first thing to be seen would be the aqueduct bringing fresh water to the citizens.  The finest aqueduct must surely be that in Segovia in central Spain.  It was built at the end of first to early second century AD by the Romans to bring water from the Río Frío about eighteen kilometres away and requiring an elevated section in its final kilometre from the Sierra de Guadarrama to the walls of the old town.

This is supported by an engineering achievement of one hundred and sixty-six arches and one hundred and twenty pillars constructed on two levels. It is twenty eight metres high and constructed with over twenty thousand large granite blocks, which are joined without mortar or clamps and have remained in place for two thousand years.

Split, Diocletian's Palace

After passing through the arches of the aqueduct the road would lead to a Palace – Diocletian’s Palace from Split in Croatia.  The palace was built as a Roman military fortress with walls two hundred metres long and twenty metres high, enclosing an area of thirty-eight thousand square metres and it is one of the best preserved Roman palaces in existence because after the fall of the Romans within the defensive walls it effectively became the city of Spalatum which eventually evolved and became the modern city of Split.


Inside the city walls there would be the houses of the people who lived in the city, the houses of Herculaneum  near Pompeii in Italy that was destroyed in the same Vesuvius eruption.  But in a different way because where Pompeii was buried in ash, Herculaneum was destroyed by a pyroclastic flow which is  a ground-hugging avalanche of hot ash, pumice, rock fragments, and volcanic gas that rushes down the side of a volcano.  Although it killed all of the inhabitants this flow did little damage to the structures, instead slowly filling them from the bottom up and preserving them perfectly without destroying them altogether.

Volubilis Morocco

After passing through the residential area there would be a magnificent triumphal arch marking the entrance to the civic and public areas.  I think it would be very much like the arch at Voloubilis in Morocco.

Volubilis  was the Roman capital of the Province of Mauritania and was founded in the third century B.C., it became an important outpost of the Roman Empire and was graced with many fine buildings.  Extensive remains of these survive in the archaeological site, located in the middle of this fertile agricultural area.  The city continued to be occupied long after the Romans had gone and at some point converted to Islam and Volubilis was later briefly to become the capital of Idris I, founder of the Idrisid dynasty, who is buried at nearby Moulay Idris.   It is now of course a UNESCO World Heritage Site, admitted to the list in 1997.

Rome The Forum

Once through the Arch into the Forum which for the Romans was the centre of political, commercial and judicial life. This has to be the Forum in Rome.

According to the playwright Plautus the area ‘teemed with lawyers and litigants, bankers and brokers, shopkeepers and strumpets’.  As the city grew  successive Emperors increasingly extended the Forum and in turn built bigger temples, larger basilicas, higher triumphal columns and more lavish commemorative arches.  Here is the Temple of Romulus and the house of the Vestal Virgins and then the Temple of Julius Caesar erected on the very spot that he was cremated following his assassination in 44 BC.

Hierapolis Pamukkale Turkey

Every ancient city needs a theatre and at the end of the forum in this virtual city is the theatre of  Hierapolis at Pamukkale in Turkey, a restored ancient theatre that surely has to be amongst the best that I have ever seen and that includes Segesta in Sicily and Merida in Spain and also (again in my opinion) the ruins that we had visited at Ephesus.

Temple of Apollo Didyma

Next to the Theatre is the Temple and I am happy to include in this virtual city the Temple of Apollo in Didyma just down the road from Ephesus.  This place would have been huge, one hundred and twenty columns, fifteen metres high and each taking an estimated twenty thousand man days to cut and erect.  It was never completely finished because during the construction process the money kept running out but if it had been then it is said that this would have been one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World in precedence over the Temple of Artemis at nearby Ephesus.

Arles France Amphitheatre

Finally there would be an Amphitheatre and whilst it may seem like madness not to include the Colosseum in Rome I am going to overlook it and include instead the Amphitheatre at Arles in Southern France.  It could also have been the the Amphitheatre in  Pula in Croatia or,Mérida in Spain but there is something majestic about about Arles which just fascinates me.

No one can be absolutely sure about which was the largest in terms of capacity and it is generally agreed that this was the Colosseum but we can be more certain about physical size and there was a plaque nearby that claimed that this was the twelfth largest in the Roman Empire.  Interestingly using this criteria the plaque only listed the Colosseum as second largest but it’s like I have always said size isn’t the most important thing!

Finally when my city is put together, I will need a wall to protect it and what better choice could I make than Hadrian’s Wall in the north of England

So there it is, my virtual Ancient City, just my personal choices and I would be more than happy to consider any alternative suggestions for inclusion.

Ancient Rome


My blogging pal Will sent me this in an email and I am delighted to add it to my city…

… thought I would share this picture of the colonnaded street and forum at Jerash. It would definitely be in my fantasy Roman city!

Jerash Jordon Picture_0438

Check out Will’s blog here …  Wilbur’s Travels


Related Posts:

Spartacus the Gladiator


The Roman City of Pompeii

The Roman City of Herculaneum

The Roman Amphitheatre at Pula

The Aqueduct of Segovia

The Roman Buildings at Mérida

The Roman Ruins at Segóbriga

Diocletian’s Palace at Split

The Roman Buildings at Arles


The Greek and Roman Ruins at Empuria, Catalonia

The Palace of Knossos in Crete

Athens and Ancient Greece

The Acropolis Museum in Athens



38 responses to “A Virtual Ancient City

  1. Brilliant idea for a post and some great choices. I would probably add the columned promenade in Jerash, Jordan.


  2. That’s a really interesting idea! We liked the Pont du Gard but I haven’t seen any others for comparison. The arena at Nimes is good and it is still used regularly for events such as tennis tournaments.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting amalgamation!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. What a great idea for a post. Just the aqueduct at the start was enough. I once built a small roman arch as a garden decoration. Even with a couple of slaves it took forever and was v v v difficult.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love the creativity of this Andrew. Am I losing my marbles or have I read this one before? No worries either way as I think its a brilliant idea. Diocletian’s’ Palace in Split was such a happy surprise for me. I don’t know what I had been expecting but loved staying near there.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Incredible to think that the Romans built that aqueduct in Segovia without so much as anything holding it together. Maybe this is where Lego got their idea? There’s also a Roman amphitheatre in Pissouri, Cyrus, which we visited about 10 years ago. It’s not very well known about, although Cyprus has quite a lot of Roman ruins.


  7. Thanks for including my picture from Jerash – an amazing place.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. re your comments about Diocletian’s Palace at Split, did you know that the stone for the Memorial at Vimy Ridge came from that the quarry in Segat in that area. It was Diocletian’s Palace that gave the sculpture the idea for it as it weathered so well, better than his original idea of marble. You’ve given me an idea for my Saturday sculpture – thanks!


  9. Pingback: City Planning – Roman Style | Have Bag, Will Travel

  10. Sounds pretty good to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Fabulous idea for a post. You do get yourself around!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Good to read it again Andrew. I must get to Ephesus one day. The one that got away is Leptis Magna in Libya. I was all booked to go but then the Arab Spring and Gadaffi overthrow happened. One day hopefully. I am blessed to have visited Palmyra in Syria before the troubles there. I will send a link to the Triumphal Arch as that may sneak into your city somewhere! Will

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I was watching a National Geographic in Turkey the other night and they featured Hierapolis. I hadn’t been aware of it, Andrew, never having made it to Pamukkale. 🙂 🙂


  14. Such phenomenal long lasting work would be your gift to posterity


  15. Those Romans sure built some amazing structures all over the place! Great photos too!


  16. You have enough for a book of Best Roman Remain in Europe. I’d buy it if only for the illustrations.


  17. These sites are terrific, we visited loads in Turkey last year, you’ll recall. I wonder how hard any of us would find it to do the same kind of post but based on modern features in cities…??


  18. Perhaps not for structures, but for slices of cake, Nutella sandwiches, paychecks, and automobiles, size does matter.

    Liked by 1 person

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