Gazing upon the splendors of ancient Rome is no longer a luxury reserved for visitors to the Italian capital. After decades of planning, visiting the Eternal City now has taken on a new dimension. The Rome Reborn Tour allows users to see over 7,000 buildings and monuments from the year 320 AD, using both those with virtual reality goggles or just a computer to explore 5 ½ square miles of the ancient capital.
“I first came up with the idea in 1974. I was determined to find a way to bring these wonderful monuments to the world, but the technology didn’t exist then,” said the project’s director, digital archaeologist Bernard Frischer. “We had to redesign the model three times as technology advanced, but 22 years after we began and $3 million later, we’re finally here,” he continued.
Users can currently do a “fly-over” of ancient Rome, as well as stop and explore two sites, the Roman Forum and the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine, designed with input from a team of archaeologists. The year 320 AD was selected due to the amount of detailed information that exists for the period allowing the modeling to be as accurate as possible. Users are also able to switch between views of the monuments, from how they exist today, to how they appeared 1,700 years ago.
The tour over Rome is like traveling in a virtual hot air balloon and although the Forum and Basilica are the only spots on the ground that can be explored in depth, over the next three years, additional locations will be brought into the tour, including the Colosseum and the Pantheon. Ultimately, users wearing virtual reality goggles will be able to eventually train as gladiators in the Colosseum or race one another in chariots around the Circus Maximus.
It is not the only project which allows people to see Rome as it was in centuries past. Visitors can explore Nero’s Domus Aurea Palace and the Caracalla Thermal Baths, but can only do so on site, using virtual reality goggles.