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How do we know what we know about ancient Rome? There is an enormous amount of material that the Romans left behind, both written and in the form of material culture. Due to this vast amount, we know more about the Romans than any other ancient civilization. Still, this mountain of material is often piecemeal; it is difficult to sift through all of the information and innumerable studies that have been conducted on the Romans from the medieval period until today. Still, with excavations ongoing throughout the city, better technology and record-keeping, DNA analysis of Roman remains and more, there’s never been a better time to become familiar with Rome’s legacy.  

The Romans’ literature lives on thanks to the transcription of texts in the medieval period. 


  • Inscriptions: on lead pipes, bricks, marble, tuff, bronze; many public and private inscriptions detail monuments and areas of the city
  • Coins (often depict ancient monuments)
  • Reliefs (often from tombs depict monuments of the city)
  • Forma Urbis plan (Severan period, found in Forum of Peace, a marble plan of the city 1:240 scale depicting the entire city with inscriptions, but only a small fragmentary portion survives. It was not the only marble plan of the city that survives.)
  • Regionary Catalogues (4C AD lists of monuments in the city, region by region, 14 regions in total)
  • Drawings: Renaissance/ Baroque artists recorded so many, now lost, monuments and inscriptions. Their studies: maps, drawings, paintings, are precious documentation of so much of Rome that survived but then was lost due to the ravages of time or purposeful destruction for building material.
  • Photography (precious documentation of Rome in the late 19C, as major excavations took place, especially the Roman Forum). 
  • Archaeology: Excavations give another insight into the life of monuments that sometimes do/ do not coincide with literary sources. 



Richardson xvii- xxvi

Claridge 33-34.

Where can you find the sources of Rome?

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Cite This Page

Cite this page as: Darius Arya, The American Institute for Roman Culture, “Sources” Ancient Rome Live. Last modified 11/16/2019.


Created by The American Institute of Roman Culture, published on 10/24/2019 under the following license: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon this content non-commercially, as long as they credit the author and license their new creations under the identical terms. Please note that content linked from this page may have different licensing terms.