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High Tech Brings Ancient Rome to Life for Kids

by Barbara Rogers

Mar 21, 2019

© Izabela 23 | Dreamstime.com

Age Specific / Kids

Even for kids fascinated by the ancient Romans, trudging through ruins gets old fast, and leaves parents struggling to help kids picture what was originally there. Some guides bring a bit of perspective and programs such as gladiator lessons at the Colosseum provide some interaction, but modern technology has given curators a whole new way to make ancient Rome real to 21st-century kids — and their parents.


It began with sound and light shows using projections, a new spin on the evening programs that delighted tourists at European castles for decades. A popular summer program recreated shopfronts in the Forum of Caesar and projected pictures of actors in Roman dress. Architectural features were replicated digitally, replacing fallen columns and fountains to re-create the scene. Even the destruction of the Curia by fire in the third century was simulated realistically.


Similar technology was used at the Domus Romane, the remains of a Roman house discovered beneath Palazzo Valentini. Thanks to virtual reconstructions and videos, visitors can see rooms, walls, baths, decorations and furnishings as they would have looked when the house was lived in.


Ruins of ancient Rome located on archaeological site in central part of Rome, Italy © Evgeniy Fesenko | Dreamstime.com

Ruins of ancient Rome located on archaeological site in central part of Rome, Italy © Evgeniy Fesenko | Dreamstime.com


At Nero’s Golden House, the Domus Aurea, visitors can see plans of the original palace projected onto a huge wall near the entrance. During the tour, they can use virtual reality headsets to “see” a room as it would have been, along with a marble atrium filled with fountains.


An after-hours visit to the Ara Pacis, an altar built in the first century BC to commemorate the military triumphs of the Emperor Augustus, features headsets that recreate the intricate carvings in 3-D. Missing bits are filled in and the original colors are added to show the detailed bas-reliefs as the ancient Romans saw them.


The most recent Roman site to add virtual reality to its tours is the Baths of Caracalla. This immense complex, which covers more than 1 million square feet, was built in the third century, and although it contains outstanding mosaics and is impressive in the size of its soaring brick walls, it gets fewer tourists than other sites, largely because it is a bit out of the main circuit. Many of the artistic treasures here originally have been taken off to museums elsewhere, making it hard to envision what the baths once looked like. Now, headsets recreate all that. The baths, with bright mosaics, monumental statues and painted walls, come to life in a 360-degree panorama that changes as you move your head.


Kids may be as fascinated by the special effects as they are by the ancient wonders, but they will remember the experience and have a better idea of what Rome looked like at the height of its splendor.


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