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The Palatine Hill, which is the centremost of the Seven Hills of Rome, is one of the most ancient parts of the city and has been called "the first nucleus of the Roman Empire."
The site is now mainly a large open-air museum while the Palatine Museum houses many finds from the excavations here and from other ancient Italian sites.
Imperial palaces were built here, starting with Augustus. Before imperial times the hill was mostly occupied by the houses of the rich.
The hill originally had two summits separated by a depression; the highest part was called Palatium and the other Germalus. Using the Forma Urbis its perimeter enclosed 25 hectares; while the Regionary Catalogues of the 4th century enclose 53 ha.
According to Livy (59 BC – AD 17) the Palatine hill got its name from the Arcadian settlers from Pallantium, named from its founder Pallas, son of Lycaon. More likely, it is derived from the noun palātum "palate"; Ennius uses it once for the "heaven", and it may be connected with the Etruscan word for sky, falad.
The Palatine Hill is also the etymological origin (via the Latin adjective palatinus) of "palatine", a 16th-century English adjective that originally signified something pertaining to the Caesar's palace, or someone who is invested with the king's authority.
Rome has its origins on the Palatine. Excavations show that people have lived in the area since the 10th century BC. Excavations performed on the hill in 1907 and again in 1948 unearthed a collection of huts believed to have been used for funerary purposes between the 9th and 7th century BC approximating the time period when the city of Rome was founded.
Pallantium was an ancient city near the Tiber river on the Apennine Peninsula. Roman mythology, as recounted in Virgil's Aeneid for example, states that the city was founded by Evander of Pallene and other ancient Greeks sometime previous to the Trojan War. In addition, Dionysius of Halicarnassus writes that Romans say that the city was founded by Greeks from Pallantium of Arcadia, about sixty years before the Trojan war and the leader was Evander. The myth of the city's origin was significant in ancient Roman mythology because Pallantium became one of the cities that was merged later into ancient Rome, thereby tying Rome's origins to the ancient Greek heroes. Other cities in the area were founded by various Italic tribes.
Virgil states that Evander named the city in honor of his ancestor, Pallas, although Pausanias as well as Dionysius of Halicarnassus say that Evander's birth city was Pallantium, and thus he named the new city after the one in Arcadia. Dionysius of Halicarnassus also mention that some writers, including Polybius of Megalopolis, say that the town was named after Pallas, who was the son of Heracles and Lavinia, the daughter of Evander, and when he died his grandfather raised a tomb to him on the hill and called the place Pallantium, after him.
According to Livy, after the immigration of the Sabines and the Albans to Rome, the original Romans lived on the Palatine. The Palatine Hill was also the site of the ancient festival of the Lupercalia.
Many affluent Romans of the Republican period (c.509 BC – 44 BC) had their residences there.
From the start of the Empire (27 BC) Augustus built his palace there and the hill gradually became the exclusive domain of emperors; the ruins of the palaces of at least Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD), Tiberius (14 – 37 AD) and Domitian (81 – 96 AD) can still be seen.
Augustus also built a temple to Apollo here.
The great fire of 64 AD destroyed Nero's palace, the Domus Transitoria, but he replaced it by 69 AD with the even larger Domus Aurea over which was eventually built Domitian's Palace.
From the 16th century, the hill was owned by the Farnese family and was occupied by the Farnese Gardens, still partially preserved above the remains of the Domus Tiberiana.
At the top of the hill, between the Domus Flavia and the Domus Augustana, the Villa Mattei was built in the 16th century, then purchased around 1830 by the Scot Charles Mills who turned it into an elaborate neo-Gothic villa. At the end of the 19th century the villa was converted into a convent. This was partially demolished from 1928 to allow excavations and in the surviving part of the building the Palatine Museum has been installed.
Already during Augustus' reign an area of the Palatine Hill was subject to a sort of archaeological expedition which found fragments of Bronze Age pots and tools. He declared this site the "original town of Rome." Modern archaeology has identified evidence of Bronze Age settlement in the area which predates Rome's founding.
Intensive archaeological excavations began in the 18th century and culminated in the late 19th century, after the proclamation of Rome as the capital of the Kingdom of Italy. Discoveries continued spasmodically throughout the 20th century until the present time.
In 2006, archaeologists announced the discovery of the Palatine House, believed to be the birthplace of Rome's first Emperor, Augustus. A section of corridor and other fragments under the Hill were found and described as "a very ancient aristocratic house." The two-story house appears to have been built around an atrium, with frescoed walls and mosaic flooring, and is situated on the slope of the Palatine that overlooks the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine. The Republican-era houses on the Palatine were overbuilt by later palaces after the Great Fire of Rome (AD 64), but apparently this one was not and perhaps was preserved for an important reason. On the ground floor, three shops opened onto the Via Sacra. The location of the domus is significant because of its potential proximity to the Curiae Veteres, the earliest shrine of the curies of Rome.
 

Literature:
Filippo Coarelli: Rim. Arheološki vodnik, razširjena in revidirana nova izdaja. von Zabern, Mainz 2000, ISBN 3-8053-2685-8, str. 148-180, (Guida archeologica di Roma. 1989).
Filippo Coarelli: Palacij. Il Palatino dalle origini all’impero. Quasar, Rim 2012, ISBN 978-88-7140-478-3.
Adolf Hoffmann, Ulrike Wulf (ur.): Cesarske palače na Palatinu v Rimu. Središče rimskega sveta in njegove zgradbe (= Zabernove ilustrirane knjige o arheologiji. = Antični svet. Posebna številka.). von Zabern, Mainz 2004, ISBN 3-8053-3325-0.
Ernest Nash: slikovni leksikon o topografiji starega Rima. 2 zvezka. Wasmuth, Tübingen 1961.
Patrizio Pensabene, Claudia Angelelli (ur.): Scavi del Palatino. Zvezek 1: L'area sud-occidentale del Palatino tra l'étà protostorico e il IV secolo A.C. Scavi e materiali della struttura ipogea sotto la cella del tempio della Vittoria (= Studi Miscellanei. 32, ZDB-ID 1133203-7). "L'Erma" di Bretschneider, Rim 2001.
Aloys Winterling: Aula Caesaris. Študije o institucionalizaciji rimskega cesarskega sodišča od Avgusta do Komoda (31 pr.n.št. - 192 n.št.). Oldenbourg, München 1999, ISBN 3-486-56195-2 (tudi: München, Univerza, habilitacijsko delo, 1992).

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