Central Italy and Rome, Handbook for Travellers

By Karl Baedeker | Go to book overview

III. The Southern Quarters (Ancient Rome).

This part of our description of Rome embraces the southern portion of the city, beginning with the Capitol, and extending eastwards as far as the Lateran: i. e. the hills of the Capitol, Palatine, Aventine, Cælius, and the S. slope of the Esquiline. This was the most important quarter of the Republican and Imperial city, but lay waste and deserted from the early part of the middle ages down to our own times. Recently it has lost much of its characteristic aspect owing to the construction of new quarters, consisting largely of tenement houses of the most Philistine appearance. A number of ancient churches, as well as the imposing collections of the Capitol and Lateran are situated in this district.


a. The Capitol.

The Capitol, the smallest but historically the most important of the hills of Rome, consists of three distinct parts: the N. summit with the church of Aracoeli (164 ft.); the depression in the middle with the piazza of the Capitol (98 ft.); and the S.W. point with the Pal. Caffarelli (156 ft.). It was on this piazza, the Area Capitolina, that Romulus is said to have founded his asylum; it was here that popular assemblies were afterwards held; and it was here, in the year 133 B.C., on the occasion of the suppression of the revolt of Tiberius Gracchus, that the blood of the citizens flowed for the first time in civil warfare. The N. peak was occupied by the Arx, or citadel, with the Temple of Juno Moneta ('the warner'), beside which, from 269 B.C. onwards, stood the mint of the Senate (comp. Plan, p. 308). The S.W. summit was the site of the great Temple of Jupiter (comp. Plan, p. 286), built by Tarquinias Superbus, the last of the kings, and consecrated in 509 B.C., the first year of the Republic. This temple was 800 ft. in circumference, and possessed a triple colonnade on the front and sides and three cellæ, that of Jupiter being in the middle and one for Juno and Minerva on each side. In the year 83 B.C., during the civil war between Sulla and Marius, the temple was burned down, and the same fate overtook it in A.D. 69, on the occasion of the struggle between Vespasian and Vitellius. Magnificently restored by Domitian, this temple continued to be the most sacred shrine of the Roman world until the 6th century.

During the early middle ages the hill was in the possession of the monastery of Sancta Maria de Capitolio (Aracoeli). The name of Monte Caprino, or hill of goats, applied to the S.E. height, testifies to its desertion. The glorious traditions, however, which attached to this spot, gave rise to a renewal of its importance on

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