An overview of the Caelius Hill in ancient Rome, named by the 6th King of Rome after an Etruscan ally. The area was initially residential, then increasingly dedicated to military and later Christian religious sites.
The Caelian hill is on the south eastern side of Rome from the Palatine and Forum to the city walls.
During the archaic period of Rome the hill used to be called “Mons Querculanus” due to the numerous oak trees growing on it. The 6th king of Rome, an Etruscan called Mcstarna but referred to by the Romans as Servius Tullius, renamed this hill Caelius. He did so in honour of his ally Caelius Vibenna: another Etruscan who had given his life to assist Servius in escaping imprisonment and breaking the power of the Etruscan priesthood and nobility.
In ancient times the hill was largely residential and is thought to have been served by Nero’s “Macellum” (market). The hill also acquired a military character to it, with various barracks or “castra”. However after the defeat of Maxentius by Emperor Constantine much of its military nature was reduced and replaced by Christian-religious sites.
The major site is the church of San Giovanni in Laterano. This was the Papal residence before the move to Saint Peter’s and the Vatican and had been donated to the church by Emperor Constantine.