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Rome Fun Facts: The Eternal City (Rome Itself)

In this week’s blog post, instead of presenting interesting facts about one of Rome’s iconic monuments, we’ll be focusing on fun facts about The Eternal City itself.  

Rome was called “The Eternal City” as far back as the 1st Century BC, when Roman poet Tibullus referred to it as Urbs Aeterna in Latin, reflecting the belief of its citizens that Rome was so great it would go on forever.

Of course a place with the nickname “The Eternal City” has an equally eternal amount of interesting facts associated with it, but we’ve narrowed our list to the ten things about Rome we think are the most surprising and entertaining.


1. A Country Within A City

  • Rome is the only city in the world that contains another country within its city limits.
  • Vatican City, located within the confines of Rome, is actually an independent and separate country (also the smallest country in the world) populated by 825 residents, the best-known being the Pope.

2. Ancient Genius in Waste Water Management

  • Rome was home to one of the world’s earliest complex sewer systems, dating back to around 600 BC. 
  • The sewer system originated as open canals constructed to drain marshy areas, expanding over the centuries to carry waste water from the public baths, latrines and fountains, as well as the homes of the noble classes.

3. A Legal System That Changed the World

  • Rome’s legal system changed the course of the world’s approach to civil law. 
  • Beginning in the 5th Century BC Roman laws were written down so that all citizens could be aware of their specifics and have assurance of being treated equally under the law. 
  • This codified system of law became the basis of civil law in most of Western Europe, and influenced the writing of the Bill of Rights in the US Constitution.

4. The Colosseum Not The Biggest

  • The biggest sports stadium in ancient Rome was not the Colosseum!  It was Circus Maximus, where the chariot races took place. 
  • Circus Maximus could hold about 250,000 spectators, compared to a measly 50,000-80,000 for the Colosseum.

5. Bloodthirsty Nature Quelled By Giraffes

  • As we know, the ancient Romans were a bloodthirsty bunch, delighting in the slaughter of gladiators and wild animals at the Colosseum — but not all wild animals. 
  • Elephants and giraffes evoked responses of compassion from spectators, so much so that the use of giraffes in the games was immediately abandoned after their first appearance.

6. Women’s Rights An Odd Mix

  • In ancient Rome women could not vote, hold public office, or attend political assemblies.
  • They could, however, own property, receive inheritance, and divorce their husbands.

7. Julius Caesar Not An Emperor

8. World’s Record For Obelisks

  • There are more obelisks in Rome than in Egypt (or anywhere else in the world, for that matter). 
  • Of the 53 obelisks transported from Egypt to Rome in ancient times like so many mega-ton trophies only 13 remain, but still more than enough to hold the world’s record.

9. Ancient Roman Fast Food

  • Yup, the ancient Romans ate fast food, and they loved takeout.
  • Fast food was sold hot and cheap at the thermopolium, a sort of cafeteria, or what we refer to as a “tavola calda” in Italy today.

10. Street Pee Stain Remover

  • Pee was used in the laundries of ancient Rome to remove stains from clothing.  (The ancient Romans understood that urine is a great source of ammonia, which neutralizes dirt and grease.)
  • Pots were placed on the streets of ancient Rome for collection purposes (which also provided citizens with the added convenience of being able to relieve themselves while out and about in Rome.) 
  • When full, the vessels would be taken to the laundries, where a worker would tread on the clothes in a tub of tinkle.  How's THAT for a fun fact??

    Now when you come to Rome you can amaze and entertain your party as you tour The Eternal City with these very fun facts!

    DriverInRome would be pleased to chauffeur you around Rome with a private car and driver, or arrange a licensed guide just for your group.  Please contact us regarding popular or custom itineraries.

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