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Largo Argentina and Campo Marzio

The area of largo di Torre Argentina (in Campo Marzio) is included between the far-reaching extensions of the Campidoglio and the Quirinale and the Tiber and was exterior to the ancient city and to the pomaerium. All over the ancient time, it was characterized by military exercises and the name itself, "Campo Marzio", derives from these activities and linked to them is the presence of the old sanctuary of Mars.
All along the republican and imperial era, though, it was filled with other monuments related to new cults and the room available for exercises progressively reduced, to the point of being confined in the part nearby the Tiber; actually this was the only one which kept the name of Campo Marzio, even in medieval and modern times.

Campo Marzio also was were vote operations for the magistrature took place. For that purpose, the Saepta Julia square was set up, and with other buildings it made a complex for meetings and vote operations.
The southern part of Campo Marzio saw, in the last two centuries of the Republic, an intense activity of monumental building promoted by the senate aristocracy: the temples of Ercolese and of the Muses (187 a.c.), of Giunone the Queen (179 a.c.) and the porches of Octavius (168 a.c.) and of Metellus (146 a.c.) were risen at the time. Quite relevant has been the construction of the Theatre by Gnaeus Pompeius which later took its name from him.
The construction of the Balbo Theatre (13 a.c.) constitutes the last monumental intervention of a member of the aristocracy extraneaous to the imperial family. Augustus will continue the construction work of the zone with the theater of Marcellus and with the remaking of the temples of Apollo and Bellona and of the porch of Metello dedicated to Ottavia, sister of Augustus.
Later, a period begins in which characters tied to Augustus (as the son-in-law of Agrippa) will proceed with the construction of an impressive series of monuments which will redesign the entire Campo Marzio.

ruins in Largo Argentina, Campo Marzio
ruins in Largo Argentina, in the ancient Campo Marzio

Apart from the already mentioned ones and the remaking of the Saepta and of the related edifices, this wave of changes brought the making of the thermae of Agrippa, the first public thermae of Rome, and of the first stable amphitheatre, the one of Statilio Tauro, of the Pantheon, the Ara Pacis, of the great solar clock. With the construction of the mausoleum for himself and for the members of his people, Octavian definitively regained his mark on the entire Campo Marzio.

From the republican era even the Villa Publica (central zone of the Campo Marzio, included between the Circo Flaminio and the complex of the Saepta and of the out-buildings) which, beyond carrying the function of public park, was also the centre of some quinquennial centuring functions and in the interior of which rose the sacred area of the Argentina square it began to be occupied by temples, porches and by other monumental edifices.

One can still spot some temples in the ruins: the (probably) Temple of Juturna, built by Gaius Lutatius Catulus after his victory against the Carthaginians; a circular one (tholus), with six columns remaining, built by Quintus Lutatius Catulus; one was devoted to Fortuna Huiusce Diei, "the Fortune of This Day", that also gave us a big statue of the goddess which is currently displayed in the Capitoline Museums; an older temple, built in the 4th or 3rd century B.C., probably devoted to Feronia (the ancient Italic goddess of fertility); the largest of the four, from the 2nd century B.C., devoted to Lares Permarini.

In Largo Argentina's post-classical phases, the area underwent some more changes.
During the 5th century, the northern porch was restored (maybe it was destroyed by an earthquake) and the passages between the pilasters which marked the oriental limit of the area were risen by about 60 centimeters. Near the sacred area (area sacra) the Xenodochium Anichiorum was established, a complex intended for the welcoming of poor people and pilgrims.
In the first years of the 6th century, the 'Area Sacra' saw a major transformation; a little remains of that, the passages between the pilasters of the oriental limit were closed, isolating the area from the exterior thus losing the character of a public place. The small northern porch which became a covered corridor and the structures between the temples were covered with a flooring in travertine on which were erected rooms straightly aligned.

In front of the temple of Juturna, was built a large rectangular hall divided in two by a line of pilasters and with a long bench which extended along the walls. This complex may have been a monastery and the small rooms (along the side of the main temple and behind the temple of Fortuna Huiusce Diei) probably were monk cells. Maybe the oratory of the monastery was founded in the main temple. Interpreting some quotes in the 'Liber Pontificalis', the edifice in the interior of the sacred area can be identified with the "monasterium Boetianum', linked with the philosopher Boetius.

In the 8th-9th centuries came the pulling down and the burying of the large hall in front of the temple of Juturna and the heightening again of the shuffle plan of about 1.20m. In front of the same temple, took place the construction of series of structures in turf ("tufo") blocks that were pulled down in the assessment of the area of 1929. These structures maybe were residences of the aristocratic people and changed the structure of the area which lost the aspect of a unified complex.

In the caroline age, the plan inherited by the ancient city wwas broken with the creation of the network of streets, squares and lanes. To the same period belong the first archeological evidence of the installation of a church in the interior of the Juturna temple. The foundation of the apse is built in the same technique (turf blocks used the same way as in other structures of the time). Also the semi-anular crypt features a typical typology of the churches datable at the caroline age. The district, as always in the medieval city, was characterized by a great social promiscuity, on account of which craftsmen, merchants and aristocrats lived side by side. Obviously, they were distinguishable by the wealth displayed in their houses.

In the middle ages the church in the Juturna temple underwent alterations: the actual layout of the apse and of presbytero are probably from year 1132, when it was dedicated to St Nicholas, together with the altar with still visible cippus-shapes, the frescoes of the apsis and the remaking of the crypt. In the 14th century the church was enlarged and was created the small lateral apse.

Today, Largo Argentina hosts one of the main theatre of Rome and constitutes a frequent stop for tourists from all over the world, going from and to the Judaic Ghetto, the Judaic Temple, Piazza Venezia, Trastevere, Isola ("island") Tiberina and Piazza Navona, all just a few steps from this ancient place.

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