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.
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.
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!
An amazing site boasting the ruins of 4 temples and what is thought to be the death place of Julius Caesar and a must-see for anyone who's into history, architecture, ruins, archeology, any of it, and located in the historic center only moments from Campo de' Fiori and the Pantheon.
Now used as a cat shelter run by volunteers on donation, they advocate spay, neuter, release, and this is an absolutely brilliant solution to both Rome's stray cat and stray ruin "problem." Going down here with some cat treats will no doubt make even the saddest day into a purr-filled pleasure and it was always my remedy for stressful work days when I worked nearby.
This is definitely a uniquely Roman thing not to be missed!
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.
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.
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.
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
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).
Cats taking shelter in Roman ruins are quite a common sight in Rome, but nowhere is this phenomenon as obvious as in the Area Sacra dell'Argentina :o) In the late 1920s, four Ancient temples were discovered and excavated across the street from the Teatro Argentina (Rome's historic opera house), just off Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. These temples are among the oldest ever found in Rome. For this reason, archeologists can only guess as to the purpose of these temples, which are usually described as Temples A, B, C and D. In the southwest corner of the Area Sacra, a stairway leads visitors down to the cat sanctuary. Cats have lived in the ruins ever since they were excavated, and by the 1990s, their population on this particular site had grown to about 100. A handful of volunteers built a primitive underground shelter, and began feeding, nursering, spaying and neutering them. Today, the Area Sacra's cat population has grown to about 250, and over 3,000 sterilizations have been performed since its creation. Because the sanctuary has never received official permission to be created, it is constantly being threatened with eviction; however, the Roman population fully supports its presence and so far it has managed to remain open. Healthy cats are put up for adoption and I was very tempted to bring one home with me, but I doubt it would have enjoyed the 11-hour plane ride to Canada. Instead, I gave the shelter a small donation to support its good work. There are also several items up for sale, the profits of which are invested in cat food and medicine.