Campus Martius (Campo Marzio) is a lowland in the bend of the Tiber River with an area of 250 hectares, between the Quirinal, Pincian and the Capitoline Hills, intended for gymnastic and military exercises. The center of the field, where the altar of Mars was built, received the name Campo and in ancient Rome turned into a war memorial, while the rest of the space was built up.
The history of the polarism of Mars is associated with the military glory of Rome. In ancient times there was a campus (Campo) – barracks and other structures for the needs of a large army: hospitals, arsenal, training fields. After the expulsion of the Tarquinians, the status of the field changed. Equiria was celebrated every year and accompanied by horse racing. Everyone could find entertainment for themselves.
The first public building on the Campus Martius was Villa Pablica. The building, created in 435 BC, in fact, was 300 m of cleared space, enclosed by a small portico. This place was used for regular (every 5 years) gathering of Roman citizens for political purposes.
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During the Punic Wars in the 3rd century BC numerous battles were fought outside of Rome and its environs. However, wealthy generals returning from campaigns considered it their duty to honor the memory of the dead and to give glory to their gods. Thus, Campus Martius was built up with various temples and tombs.
In 221 BC, consul Gaius Flaminius built a circus in the southern part of Campo Marzio for horse racing and the Plebeian Games. A path to the circus that connected the gates of del Popolo and Via Flaminia was laid. However, to this day, the Circus of Flaminia has not survived.
During the time of the Republic, a space called the Area Sacra (lat. the Holy Land) was formed on the territory of the Campo Marzio. This name is more than justified, because in a relatively small area of the capital’s land 4 impressive buildings were built: the Hall of 100 columns (Hecatostylum), the Baths of Agrippa, the Pompeii Theater, and the Circus Flaminius.
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Archaeological excavations that allowed to discover the remains of ancient temples and public institutions began in the 20th century and continue to this day. In 1993, Silvia Viviani and Lia Dequel founded the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary (in Italian, Colonia Felinia Torre Argentina, or “Torre Argentina Feline Colony”).
Today, volunteers at Largo di Torre Argentina care for about 250 cats at the cat sanctuary
After the site’s excavation, cats started to move to these ruins and locals were feeding them. Despite the fact that the whole city is full of cats, Torre Argentina is especially popular place for them. Torre Argentina has numerous bus stops and located between Jewish Ghetto, Campo de’ Fiori, and the Pantheon areas.
There were many temples on the territory of Campus Martius. Some of the temples have survived to this day.
The Temple of Bellona (Templum Bellona), the patroness of the defenders of the Motherland, was built in 295 BC by Appius Claudius Caecus in honor of the victory of the Romans over the Etruscans. The temple was located on the Campo Marzio near the Marcellus Theater (Teatro di Marcello). Political meetings took place in the temple. Sometimes receptions were held in honor of foreign ambassadors. However, at the moment the temple is a ruin.
The Temple of Hercules (Ercole Oleario) was built around 120 BC on the hilly coast of the Tiber, at that time referred to as the Bull Forum (Foro Boario). It is completely surrounded by columns and is the oldest marble building in Rome, still pleasing to the eyes of modern tourists. There is an assumption that the temple was built with the money of a merchant of olive oil, as evidenced by the inscription on one of the statues inside it.
The Pantheon is an ancient temple dedicated to the Roman gods and embodies the greatness of the Roman Empire. It is assumed that it was built in the AD 2 on the place of another temple, built in the 27 BC by Marcus Agrippa. Nowadays, this ancient crowning glory can be found at Piazza della Rotonda.
The height of the building is almost equal to its diameter and amounts to 42 meters (137,8 ft). Air and light penetrate inside the Pantheon through the oculus in the center of the dome with a diameter of 9 meters (29,5 ft), called “the Eye of the Pantheon”, the main feature of the temple
Pantheon is one of the few buildings of ancient Rome, which have survived unchanged to this day. All the time it has attracted the attention of artists and scientists as well as simple public. Michelangelo considered it to be an angelic creation. Raphael wanted to be buried in the temple, which, on his mind, was a place where people and gods are united. The great artist was buried in the Pantheon. This event became a new stage in the history of the ancient temple, having turned it into a burial place of great and famous people.
Hadrian’s Temple (Templum Divi Hadriani) was erected in 145 A.D. by the descendant of the emperor, Antoninus Pius. The building was made in a luxurious style: on a rectangular podium were built two rows of 13 marble columns that supported the ornate roof. A wide staircase, faced with slabs of marble and carved reliefs, led to the temple.
Unfortunately, only 11 columns and part of the wall of the temple survived to the present. The remains of the temple became part of the Roman customs building, and later of the stock exchange, which was built in the late 19th century. Address of the Temple of Hadrian is Piazza di Pietra.
Lucius Cornelius Sulla gave the Field of Mars popularity among the Roman nobility in the 2nd century BC. Apartment buildings, called insulas, and different public buildings were constructed. The once abandoned territory began to be actively built up with houses, porticoes, palaces, theaters.
The Theatre of Pompey (Latin: Theatrum Pompeii, Italian: Teatro di Pompeo) was built during the latter part of the Roman Republican era by Pompey the Great (Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus). Completed in 55 BC, it was the first permanent theatre to be built in Rome.
The curia is infamous as the place where Julius Caesar was assassinated by Brutus and Cassius during a session of the Senate on 15 March 44 BC
The Theater of Marcellus built in the Campus Martius area, between the Tiber and the Campidoglio. Also, its location is downhill from the Capitol, on the way to the Mouth of Truth. Augustus, the first Roman emperor, who claimed that he found the Eternal City in clay and left if marble, dedicated the construction to his favorite nephew, Marcellus. However, instead of being the following emperor, Marcellus died young and became the first to be laid in the mausoleum of Augustus.
The theater had a big strategic importance. It was under the rule of the Fabi family that built a fortress on top of the arches. However, eventually, the construction was under the command of the Savelli and Orsini families
The engineering of Rome over the centuries has incredibly developed from Ancient Roman architecture to Italian modern and contemporary architecture.
During the reign of Emperor Augustus, Campo Marzio was a place for voting of the citizens of Rome. Thus, Saepta Julia was arranged. The extensive structure (300 x 95 m) for a long time served as one of the residences of Roman rulers. Nowadays, part of the wall of Saepta Julia can be seen next to the Pantheon.
Nearby the Marcellus Theater and the Flaminius Circus are the ruins of a portico erected in honor of the sister of Emperor Augustus, Octavia Minor. The building was created around 27 BC, however, at the dawn of the Christian era, the building, lined with expensive marble, was twice put to fire. In the past, in the walls of the portico of Octavia one could see works of art, such as Pliny’s “Natural History”. After significant upheaval, the building was used as a fish market and then fell into decay.
The Ara Pacis Augustae (Latin, “Altar of Augustan Peace”) is an altar in Rome dedicated to Pax, the Roman goddess of Peace. The monument was commissioned by the Roman Senate in 13 BC to honor the return of Augustus to Rome after three years in Hispania and Gaul and consecrated in 9 BC.
The Mausoleum of Augustus (Italian: Mausoleo di Augusto) is a large tomb built by the Roman Emperor Augustus in 28 BC on the Campus Martius. The grounds cover an area equivalent to a few city blocks nestled between the church of San Carlo al Corso and the Museum of the Ara Pacis.
The Stadium of Domitian (Stadio di Domiziano), also called as the Circus Agonalis, was located to the north of the Campus Martius. It was commissioned around AD 80 by the Emperor Titus as a gift to the people of Rome, and was used mostly for athletic contests.
The Column of Marcus Aurelius (Latin: Columna Centenaria Divorum Marci et Faustinae, Italian: Colonna di Marco Aurelio) is a Roman victory column in Piazza Colonna. It is a Doric column featuring a spiral relief: it was constructed in honour of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius and modeled on Trajan‘s Column.
You can get to Piazza in Campo Marzio from the Barberini Metro Station, following Via del Tritone. If you are already in the urban area of Campo Marzio, you can get to the Pantheon from Piazza Torre Argentina or from many other attractions. Nowadays this area is one of the best places for shopping in Rome!
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Author: Kate Zusmann
For the last 6 years I live in the Eternal City. Traveling, exploring new things, writing blogs, shooting vlogs are my main hobbies, but the thing that I like even more is to share my experience and thoughts with you! Explore Rome with Us :)
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