Rome Reborn: A New 3D Virtual Model Lets You Fly Over the Great Monuments of Ancient Rome

Thir­teen years ago here on Open Cul­ture, we first fea­tured Rome Reborn 2.2, a dig­i­tal 3D mod­el of the ancient metrop­o­lis at the height of its glo­ry in the fourth cen­tu­ry. And that rebirth has con­tin­ued apace ever since, and just last week bore the fruit of Rome Reborn 4.0, through which you can get a fly­ing tour in the video above. Inter­cut with the com­put­er-gen­er­at­ed recon­struc­tions is footage of the ruins of the very same parts of the city as they exist in Rome today. The oppor­tu­ni­ty for com­par­i­son thus pro­vid­ed allows us to appre­ci­ate not just the upgrades in the lat­est Rome Reborn’s lev­el of detail, but also its degree of real­ism.

With each revi­sion, the fourth-cen­tu­ry Eter­nal City recre­at­ed in Rome Reborn looks more like real­i­ty and less like a video game. But that does­n’t mean you can’t get the same thrill of explor­ing it that you would from a video game, which is part of the appeal of load­ing up the lat­est ver­sion of the mod­el on the vir­tu­al-real­i­ty app Yorescape, a prod­uct of the “vir­tu­al tourism” com­pa­ny Fly­over Zone Pro­duc­tions found­ed by Rome Reborn’s project leader Bernard Frisch­er.

And it is Frisch­er him­self who leads the in-app tour of “sites exem­pli­fy­ing the city’s geog­ra­phy, mar­kets, tem­ples, and much, much more,” enriched by “Time Warps spread around the city that allow you to tog­gle between the view today and the view from the same van­tage point in antiq­ui­ty.”

This is heady stuff indeed for enthu­si­asts of ancient Rome, who will no doubt be eager to see for them­selves the new and improved dig­i­tal mod­els of ancient Roman struc­tures like the Cir­cus Max­imus, the Arch of Titus, the Por­ti­cus Livi­ae, and the Tem­ple of Min­er­va. These and many oth­ers besides appear in the Rome Reborn 4.0 demo reel just above, which shows off the cul­mi­na­tion of 27 years of work so far by Frisch­er and his team. A dig­i­tal archae­ol­o­gist at Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty, Pro­fes­sor Frisch­er has point­ed out still-absent fea­tures to come, such as “avatars infused with AI” with whom the twen­ty-first-cen­tu­ry tourist can inter­act. We’ll have to wait for future iter­a­tions to do so, but sure­ly we can sum­mon the patience by remem­ber­ing that Rome isn’t reborn in a day.

Relat­ed con­tent:

An Ani­mat­ed Recon­struc­tion of Ancient Rome: Take A 30-Minute Stroll Through the City’s Vir­tu­al­ly-Recre­at­ed Streets

A Huge Scale Mod­el Show­ing Ancient Rome at Its Archi­tec­tur­al Peak (Built Between 1933 and 1937)

The Chang­ing Land­scape of Ancient Rome: A Free Online Course from Sapien­za Uni­ver­si­ty of Rome

An 8‑Minute Ani­mat­ed Flight Over Ancient Rome

The Old­est Known Pho­tographs of Rome (1841–1871)

High-Res­o­lu­tion Walk­ing Tours of Italy’s Most His­toric Places: The Colos­se­um, Pom­peii, St. Peter’s Basil­i­ca & More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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