On our way to see the Jewish Ghetto, Hubby and I happened to find the Porticus of Octavia and the nearby Theatre of Marcellus just as we entered the Ghetto area and right behind the synagogue. We were rather surprised since we had not done the research on this area – walking to the Ghetto area was a spur of the moment idea – so we had no idea of what to expect. But what a pleasant surprise it was!
The ruins of the huge porticus, which originally measured approximately 390 feet by 433 feet and was built in 146 BC, are what is left of the building that housed temples to both Jupiter and Juno, had 300 columns, and filled with Greek statues. Augustus rebuilt the structure in 23 AD in honor of his sister, Octavia, and thus the name of the building. After a fire in 203 AD, it was rebuilt again by Septimius Severus.
The ruins were free to look at but you could not get too close to them. We were able to enter the nearby Theatre of Marcellus area (also free) from the ramp in front of the Porticus of Octavia. There were some signs that told us a little of what we were looking at.
The piazza in front of the Portico is remembered as the site where more than 2,000 Jewish people were deported to concentration camps during WWII and is the entrance to the Jewish Ghetto. A sign on the building to the right of the Portico marks this day and the name of the piazza: Largo 16 Ottobre 1943.
The Jewish community in Rome is the oldest after the community in the Holy Land; Jewish people came to Rome in the 2nd century BC. For centuries, this community lived in the city and flourished as traders, financiers, and doctors. This came to an end in 1556 during the Counter Reformation when Pope Paul IV required the Jewish community to sell their property, wear distinctive garments, and move into a restricted settlement area now known as the Ghetto. The Ghetto was given a curfew and its people were locked in each night. The people were also required to listen to Catholic sermons on the Sabbath.
This area is located next to the Tiber River across from the Isola Tiberina (the island on the Tiber) and not far from the Capitoline Hill. We approached the Ghetto from the river area – we were walking along the pathways by the river and at the Porto Frabricio, the bridge that crosses over to the island, we turned into the Ghetto area next to the Jewish synagogue.
Today the Jewish community in Rome is spread out and numbers nearly 14,000, although many moved to the Trastevere area. They received full citizenship and freedoms with the reunification of Italy in the 1800s, although this freedom did not remain during WWII. As we approached the area behind the synagogue, we came to a section of fine Roman ruins – quite a surprise to us because we didn’t know it was there – the Porticus of Octavia and the ruins of the Theatre of Marcellus. There is a plaque on the building next to the Porticus of Octavia named the piazza in front of it “Largo 16 Ottobre 1943” in memory of the more than 2,000 Roman Jewish people that were deported on that day and would later die in concentration camps during WWII.
There are a number of shops and eateries in the Ghetto; on the day we were there, the local Jewish bakery at No. 1 Via del Portico d’Ottavia was crowded with people buying and eating the wonderful treats on sale. Located at the corner of a busy square in the Ghetto, this seemed to be the center of action.
On the next street over on Via della Reginella is a little fountain, Fontana delle Tartarughe designed by Taddeo Landini in 1584 but redone by Bernini in the mid-1600s. You will see four small turtles that are copies of the originals. It sits in the middle of a small piazza.
Built in honour of Augustus’s sister Octavia (the abandoned wife of Mark Antony), this is the only surviving portico of what used to be the monumental piazza of Circuì Flaminius. The part we see today is the great central atrium originally coverei by marble facings. The rectangular portico enclosed temples dedicated to Jupiter and Juno, decorated with bronze statues.
These ruins were the entrance to a majestic rectangular area that enclosed temples, libraries, stores.
Built in 146 a.C., was reconstructed on 23 a.C. during Augusto's Empire.
During Middle Age the fish market was located here.
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