Area Sacra - Largo Argentina, Rome
Until the 1920s, the Area Sacra di Largo Argentina was undiscovered. Now, an entire square is open to us, several meters below the current ground level - the ruins of four temples are exposed and have become home to the city's largest cat sanctuary. Explanatory signage is available on all sides of the site in Italian and English.
We have Mussolini to thank for preserving this site. Really. If not for him, new buildings (which he was originally planning) would have been erected on the site when it was first excavated. But Mussolini was trying to align himself with Imperial Rome (specifically, Augustus) and so insisted on preserving the site when it was discovered, It turns out that the temples were all pre-Imperial, dating from the 4th to the 2nd century BC, when Rome was, more or less, a Republic. Thus, these temples are among the oldest in Rome. There are also the remains of an ancient public latrine.
While not much is known about these temples (hence they are labeled merely A, B C and D), they were located next to the Teatro Pompei (Pompey's Theater). Pompey was a Roman general and Julius Caesar's primary political opponent. He built the theater, partly to enhance his standing among the public. Because there were restrictions on the building of public theaters, Pompei combined the theater with a temple. The complex included covered loggias and gardens which extended to very near the Largo Argentina temples.
Ironically, Julius Caesar was murdered in his rival's monumental complex, quite near Largo Argentina, (not in the Roman Forum as is often assumed.) The Curia, in the Roman Forum, where the Senate usually met, was under reconstruction after a fire.
So I mentioned in my "Et Tu, Brute?" review that Julius Caesar wasn't polished off in the Forum? It happened here. Yep, Pompey's Curia - part of a huge theater - was the temporary hangout of the senate at the time, and was located directly behind the ruins of four temples in this square. This little piece of real estate was once part of a large cluster of villas, public buildings, circuses, arenas, baths and temples - including the original Pantheon - known as Campus Martinus: Field of Mars. It was originally a wheat field, pasture and military training ground outside of the Servian Wall that became part of the city around the turn of the 1st millennium, and later enclosed by the Aurelian Walls.
The temples were uncovered in an urban renewal project in the 1920s, and some shoddy archeological work destroyed some of the clues as to their identities but they range in age from 3rd to 1st-century BC with restoration work occurring after a huge fire in 80 AD. Excavation is still in process and while you can't putter about the ruins, you can see them (free) from surrounding sidewalks, and there are signs in English to tell you what is known about each temple. Numeral 1 in the blue circle on the diagram in photo #5 marks the scene of Caesar's undoing. Oddly, the ruins have also become a shelter for about 250 homeless cats.
The Curia? Boarded up after Julius' unfortunate demise and later converted to a latrine.
This area is the excavated remains of 4 temples a few blocks south of the Pantheon at Largo Argentina. Again there is a small charge to go down into the ruins but it can all be seen from street level looking down so there is no need to pay this charge.
We accidentally stumbled across Largo di Torre Argentina while walking towards the Pantheon.
We were a little unsure of what to be taken aback by here.
Was it the impressive remains of the 4 temples, the amount of traffic whizzing by it as though it wasn't even there, or the vast amounts of stray cats that had taken up residence between the ruins?
I think the cats won it. Strange as it may seem, the ruins within Largo di Torre Argentina are impressive, but you cannot help stand there wondering why on earth there are so many cats. I think we counted over 30!
Someone obviously looks after them, as there were feeding boxes and cat kennels spread around the ruins.
The Largo di Torre Argentina ruins are impressive, but if you don't want to see them, then at least go to see the cats!
Its quite fascinating.......if even a little eery!
Largo di Torre Argentina is an amazing square not far from the Pantheon or Trastevere. Right in the middle, there is the so called Area Sacra (Holy area), ruins of four roman temples (between II and IV cen. BC):
- temple of Giuturna
- Aedes Fortunae Huiusce Diei
- temple of Feronia
- sanctuary of Lari Permarini
The area is also well known as the paradise of stray cats.
The four republic era temples - conveniently called temples A, B, C and D - were discovered during construction work in the 1920s. Some parts of the temples are still under the roads, so only parts are visible. Behind temples B and C a part of the Curia of Pompejus is visible. This was the place when the Senate met on March 15th 44BC, en Julius Caesar was murdered.
A few hundred stray cats inhabit the Area Sacra, that is why the locals like to refer to it as the Cats Forum. Some of them are really sweet, and it is possible to pet them. They not only walk in the forum, but also on the square around it.
Many famous opera's had their premiere in this theatre, built in 1732 by the Sforza Cesarini family. The facade was placed a century later though. There are still performances in this beautiful building!
For five consecutive days, we crossed Largo del Torre Argentina or simply, Largo Argentina, either after alighting from Tram No. 8 or running to board the same tram back home or changing buses here to visit yet another tourist destination. It was only on Day 3 that one finally crossed the road, marvelled at the sunken ruins and snapped a few photos while catching glimpses of the insouciant cats strewn all around. Given the ordinariness of the place, it was difficult to imagine that this was the very place that Julius Caesar muttered, "Et tu, Brute?" before succumbing to the mortal dagger stabs of his assassins.
Building work carried out in the 1920’s disinterred four Roman Republican-era temples in the square of Largo di Torre Argentina. These temples of Area Sacra di Largo Argentina are now called Temples A, B, C and D. The oldest temple is temple C, built in the early half of the third century BC. You can recognise it as a rectangular structure placed atop a platform with an altar. It may date to the second century BC. The largest temple is the one with the tall columns jutting out. Alongside Via di Torre Argentina, are the ruins of the Curia of Pompey - a senate meeting place - part of the complex which included the Theatre of Pompey. It was here that Julius Caesar was assassinated on 15 March 44 BC.
The site remains permanently closed but you can see the ruins from the road itself and visualise Pompey's Theatre and Baths which the Roman Senate used for their meetings while the Roman Forum was being built. It was while exiting one of such meetings that Brutus, Cassius and co-conspirators felled Caesar. Unfortunately, there’s no sign around to tell you of such a profound event. Today, Largo del Torre Argentina is home to the largest collection of stray cats in Rome. Pity Caesar didn’t have 9 lives.
First Written: Sep. 4, 2012
Today people come to the sunken area of Largo Argentina - not only to look at the temple ruins but more likely I suspect to see the cats that live here. The whole area acts as a scantuary for them - they are fed daily and there is a scheme whereby you can adopt a roman cat - financially that is!
Discovered in the 1920s, this square in the center of an area of Rome that is bustling with traffic is the site of four temples dating back to the Roman Republic. Excavations are still taking place and archeologists disagree on the purpose of some of the structures. Until their purpose can be determined, these excavated buildings are given the highly original names of Temple A, B, C, and D. It is also believed that it was in one of these temples where Julius Caesar was murdered on the Ides of March in 44 BC. Visitors to the area can walk completely around the rectangular piazza and look down into the excavated ruins, which is also home to lots of cats that can be seen laying in the sun.
Temple A is the structure on the northern end along Corso Vittorio Emmanuele II. This was built in the 3rd century BC and is thought to be the temple of Juturna. It was later rebuilt into a Christian church, as can be seen by the apse and traces of frescoes.
Temple B is next to Temple A heading in a southerly direction. This round temple has the remains of six columns as well as the original steps and altar. It was built around 100 BC and is believed to have been built to celebrate Quintus Lutatius Catulus’ victory over Cimbri. A massive statue was found here which is now on display in the Capitoline Museum.
Next in the row of temples is Temple C, which is thought to be the oldest of the four temples here, dating to the 3rd or 4th century BC. Archaeologists believe this was a temple to Feronia, the ancient goddess of fertility. Reconstructed after a fire in 80 AD, the temple ruins still show black and white mosaics inside.
The last temple and most southern structure on the site is Temple D, which is also the biggest and dates back to the 2nd century BC. Only a portion of this temple is seen since most of the structure is underneath the streets.
Where was Julius Caesar killed? Part of Pompey’s Theatre is also on this spot, which was where the Curia met on that fateful day. These ruins can be seen behind Temples B and C along the Via di Torre Argentina; a large platform made of stones is visible and this is the murder site.
There is no admission into the excavation site, but you can walk all the way around the piazza. Much of the ancient structures were damaged by construction and shoddy excavation work, but what is seen today appears in an organized manner. There are a few signs telling you what you are looking at.
Oh – and the cats are cared for by a volunteer organization that has a shelter next to the site. www.romancats.com.
Discovered by chance in 1926 during a construction project, the Area Sacra is an archeological site containing the remains of four Ancient Roman temples. It is located in Largo di Torre Argentina, now a large square in central Rome, named after the mediaeval tower (Torre Argentina) in the square. Because archeologists are still uncertain to whom the four temples were dedicated, they have designated them with the letters A to D. Although entry into the area is restricted, a walk along the outside railing provides excellent views of the imprint of the temples and some of the standing columns. Roman cats, however, seem to have full access to the site and many have taken refuge among the ruins (see attached photos).
Largo di Torre Argentina is another place you should not miss while visiting Rome. It is a very short and pleasant walk (5 min) from The Pantheon.
You will see the ruins of 4 temples: A, B, C, D. This is how all the audio guides refer to them in order to make it easy for you to identify the ruins. Temple A was built in the 3rd century BC. Temple B, a circular temple with six columns remaining, was built in 101 BC. Temple C is dating back to 4th or 3rd century BC. Some people say that this temple was devoted devoted to Feronia, the goddess of fertility. Temple D dates back to 2nd century BC.
Look for the remains of some brick walls. This was the exit to Pompey's Theater and the Baths complex, which the Roman Senate was using in the 1st century BC to hold their meetings while the main Senate house in the Forum was being rebuilt.
The area today is the shelter of 250 cats. Volunteers take care of them and open up the site for visiting every day around 4:30pm (4:00pm in the summer). The entrance is free, but they ask you for donations, so they can keep the shelter running. You can also adopt a cat if you want.
It was pouring when we were there and it was very cold. This was one of the last sights we planned visiting during particular day and we were soaked to the bones. We spent few minutes here, listening to the audio guide we had with us, but we did not wait for the volunteers to show up and open the sight. I can just imagine how great this experience would have been in a nice weather!
offcourse i visited the catshelter for roman cats, its located on a big square and when you go downstairs at one ohf the corners you can see the shelter and you can walk in and talk to the people (volunteers) who are at work.
When i was there there was a woman from News Sealand and we talked about the work and the cats, many cats are sick and have a special big room where the cats have their own space, even the blind ones can find their way here:-)
When you buy souveirs you support this great organization
The founders are: Silvia Viviani and Deborah DÁlessandro
Because I love animals and I miss mine who have long since been gone, when in Rome for any length of time, I will volunteer at the Roman Cat Sanctuary.
This wonderful cat sanctuary in Rome is right across from the trolly stop at Torre Argentina where the ruins are. It is easily missed, however, because you have to go down some steps and into a sort of basement to get there. Don't give up. I did volunteer work there once a week while I lived in Rome.