How Was the City of Rome Laid Out?

By Michael Ferguson

In this article, we will explore the fascinating layout of the ancient city of Rome. From its well-planned streets to its impressive architecture, Rome was a masterclass in urban design. Let’s delve into how this magnificent city was organized and structured.

The Grid System

Rome’s layout was based on a grid system, which was common in Roman urban planning. The city had two main roads – the Cardo and Decumanus – that intersected at right angles, dividing the city into four quadrants.

The Cardo:

  • Running north to south, the Cardo was the primary road in Rome.
  • It started at the Capitoline Hill and extended all the way to the southern boundary of the city.
  • The Cardo Maximus was the main street within this road.

The Decumanus:

  • Running east to west, the Decumanus served as an important thoroughfare.
  • It began at the Roman Forum and stretched to the eastern limits of Rome.
  • The Decumanus Maximus was the central street within this road.

Districts and Neighborhoods

Rome was divided into several districts and neighborhoods, each with its own unique characteristics. Here are some notable ones:

The Palatine Hill:

This hill was home to Rome’s most affluent citizens, including emperors and aristocrats. Lavish palaces adorned this area, overlooking other parts of Rome.

The Forum Romanum:

The heart of ancient Rome, the Forum Romanum was a bustling marketplace and the social, political, and religious center of the city. It was adorned with grand temples, government buildings, and public spaces.

The Suburra:

Located between the Esquiline and Viminal Hills, the Suburra was known for its vibrant street life. It housed a mix of residential areas, shops, and entertainment venues.

Roman Architecture

Rome’s architecture was renowned for its grandeur and innovation. Let’s explore some key architectural elements:


The Romans were masters of arch construction. They used arches to create magnificent structures like the Colosseum and aqueducts. Arches provided stability and allowed for large open spaces.


Roman architecture featured various types of columns, including Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. Columns were used to support buildings as well as add aesthetic appeal to facades.

In Conclusion

Rome’s layout was a testament to Roman ingenuity in urban planning. The grid system provided efficient transportation routes throughout the city while districts like the Palatine Hill and Forum Romanum showcased Rome’s social hierarchy and cultural significance.

The architectural wonders of Rome continue to inspire awe today. Exploring the layout of ancient Rome offers us a glimpse into the remarkable history of this iconic city.