Picking up where the last post left off, I had been hopelessly lost, walking up and down hills on a hot and humid Roman day. I was sitting on the steps of a municipal building, just off Piazza Bocca della Verità, cooling off and reorienting myself while gazing at the temples of the Forum Boarium (the ancient cattle market).
You want geometrical perfection? Here is Tempio di Ercole Vincitore (Temple to Hercules the Victor). It was built in the 2nd century BC. I didn’t know this, but there was quite a cult of Hercules in ancient Rome.
I had always been taught that this circular temple was dedicated to Vesta (perhaps you’ve heard that too) but, apparently, that isn’t true. Someone made an error a long time ago, and that error became conventional wisdom.
Nearby lies the Tempio di Portuno (Temple of Portunus); Portunus was the god of ports, doors, and cattle. His temple was originally built in the 3rd century BC (likely rebuilt after).
Both temples were later consecrated as Christian churches.
Having finished one of my water bottles, I tucked the other into my bag and set off down the Piazza. Have I mentioned that you should bring water?
A broken monument rests exactly where the piazza turns into Via Luigi Petroselli. It is dedicated to Concordia Augusta (a goddess of marital harmony). Some have claimed it’s what remains of an altar to the goddess, some have claimed it’s a pedestal that once supported a statue of the goddess.
After continuing down Via Luigi Petroselli for just over a block, a large, 15th century church, that of Sant’Ombono, comes into view.
Adjacent to it is an area of excavated land dotted with the remains of temples to the goddesses Fortuna and Mater Matuta, which were first erected in the 7th century BC–that makes them the oldest temple ruins in Rome.
The entire complex is known as the Area Sacra di Sant’Ombomo. Currently, several universities are researching the space; you can read more about it at the University of Michigan’s Sant’Ombono Project webpage.
Cross the street—Vico Jugario—and you will find yourself before arches, elegant columns, and crumbling walls. It’s the entrance—the portico–of an ancient forum, the Foro Olitoro , which was the vegetable market.
Across the street, a series of ancient columns are embedded in the wall of a church. Actually, columns are either embedded into structures or still free-standing all along this street.
By this point, the Teatro di Marcello is visible. I was absolutely surprised to see what seemed to be a mini-colosseum—and no people were about! The theater’s building was started by Julius Caesar (he died before it really went anywhere). Augustus completed it and opened it in 12 BC. It’s called “Marcello” after a young nephew who had died after an illness. Although it became the standard for Roman theaters, it was abandoned in the 300s. In the medieval era, it was resurrected as a fortress.
Beside the theater, three spectacular columns represent what remains of Tempio di Apollo Sosiano (Temple of Apollo Sosianus), The first temple on this site was built in 431 BC; it was rebuilt a number of times afterward. The current remains are from the time of Augustus, and the temple was renamed Sosiano after the man who funded the reconstruction.
The seeming small arch that stands just behind the theater (lower middle left) is what remains of the Porticus Octaviae. (2nd century BC). It marked the center of the Jewish ghetto, which existed, with a few gaps here and there, from the 16th to the 19th century.
To the right of Tempio di Apollo Sosiano, and barely visible here, lay ruins of Tempio di Bellona (Temple of Bellona), a Roman goddess of war
The street, Via di Teatro di Marcello, curves. Continuing down, you pass a stunning Madonnelle, as well as the remains of some kind of Christian shrine.
By now, it’s clear to me that that I’m back to where I parted from my friends. I had gone in a complete circle.
Even so, it was a splendid walk—despite the heat, despite the humidity, and despite the hills. I actually recommend it.
That being said, if you’re in Rome, and if Circus Maximus is open, you can cut out the Aventine climb and go straight down Via dei Cerchi to Piazza Bocca della Verità.
Next: Finally getting back to the Pantheon and Piazza Navona