The project has been developed by Google, in collaboration with the Rome Reborn Project and Past Perfect Productions. According to a report in the Times, the realisation of the ancient city in Google Earth lets viewers stand in the centre of the Colosseum, trace the footsteps of the gladiators in the Ludus Magnus and fly under the Arch of Constantine. The computer model, a collection of more than 6,700 buildings, depicts Rome in the year 320 AD. Rome is the first ancient city to be viewable in three dimensions in Google Earth. The feature uses satellite imagery, maps and search to show viewers a wide range of geographical information for the entire planet.
The computer graphics are based on a physical model - the Plastico di Roma Antica, which was created by archaeologists and model-makers between 1933 and 1974 and is housed in the Museum of Roman Civilisation in Rome.
"The project is the continuation of five centuries of research by scholars, architects and artists since the Renaissance who have attempted to restore the ruins of the ancient city with words, maps and images," said Bernard Frischer, the director of the Rome Reborn Project.
"The partnership with Google Earth is another step in creating a virtual time machine which our children and grandchildren will use to study the history of Rome," he added.
The Ancient Rome feature is designed for students and historians as well as people with a more casual interest in the city. Viewers can find out more through pop-up "information bubbles" for more than 250 sites identified in the ancient city.
The first bubble provides basic information for schoolchildren and a second click provides more advanced information including a topographical encyclopedia, ancient literary sources and bibliographical information about each building. The information is available in a variety of languages.
According to Gianni Alemanno, the Mayor of Rome, "It's an incredible opportunity to share the stunning greatness of Ancient Rome, a perfect example of how the new technologies can be ideal allies of our history, archaeology and cultural identity."