ROME (AP) – Four temples of ancient Rome, dating back to the third century B.C., stand in the middle of one of the modern city’s busiest crossroads.
But until Monday, only the cats roaming the so-called “Sacred Precinct,” on the edge of the site where Julius Caesar was assassinated, got a close-up view of the temples.
With the help of funding from Bulgari, the luxury jeweler, the group of temples can now be visited by the public.
For decades, the curious had to stare down from the bustling sidewalks of Largo Argentina (Argentina Square) to admire the temples below. This is because, over the centuries, the city was built up, layer by layer, at levels several meters above the area where Caesar masterminded his political strategies and was later fatally stabbed in 44 BC.
Behind two of the temples is a foundation and part of a wall that archaeologists believe were part of Pompey’s Curia, a large rectangular hall that temporarily hosted the Roman Senate when Caesar was killed.
What leads archaeologists to locate the ruins of Pompeii’s Curia? We know this for sure because latrines have been found on the sides of the ‘Correa Pompeii’, and ancient texts refer to latrines, said Claudio Baresi Presic, an archaeologist and Rome’s top official for cultural heritage.
The temples emerged during the demolition of medieval buildings in the late 1920s, as part of dictator Benito Mussolini’s campaign to reshape the urban landscape. A tower on one end of Largo Argentina once towered over a medieval palace.
Temples are designated A, B, C and D and are believed to have been dedicated to female deities. One of the temples, reached by a majestic staircase, and featuring a circular shape with six surviving columns, is believed to have been constructed in honor of Fortuna, the goddess of fortune associated with fertility.
Together, the temples form “one of the best-preserved remnants of the Roman Republic,” Baresi Presic said after Rome Mayor Roberto Gualtieri cut a ceremonial ribbon Monday afternoon. – and a white photograph showing Mussolini cutting the ribbon in 1929 after viewing the engraved monuments.
Also shown are the limestone paving stones laid by Emperor Domitian after a fire in AD 80 that destroyed a large swath of Rome, including the sacred precinct.
On display are some of the artifacts that were found during excavations in the last century. Among them is the huge stone head of one of the deities honored in the temples, without a chin and without a lower lip. Another is a stone fragment of a winged angel of victory.
Over the past decades, the cat colony has thrived among the ruins. The cats lounged around undisturbed, and cat lovers were allowed to feed them. On Monday, a black and white cat sprawled lazily on its back over the stone trunk of what was once a glorious pillar.
Bulgari helped pay for the construction of the walkways and night lighting. A relief for tourists treading carefully over the uneven ancient paving stones of the Roman Forum. Boardwalks in the sacred area are wheelchair and stroller friendly. For those who cannot handle the stairs down from the platform, an elevator platform is available.
The attraction is open daily except for Mondays and some major holidays, with general admission tickets priced at €5 ($5.50 USD).
Oddly enough, the square owes its name not to the South American country but to its Latin name Strasbourg, France, which was the main residence of a 15th-century German cardinal who lived nearby and was master of the pope’s ceremonies, including Alexander’s. Sixth, Papa Borgia.
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