Rome was born here, on Capitoline Hill. According to legend, the god Saturn created the first settlement here, in which the Greeks, led by Hercules, were welcomed. The hill probably takes its name from the head, “caput” in Latin, of a warrior named Tolo or Olo, which was unearthed during excavations for the foundations of the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, which was dedicated to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. During the imperial era, Augustus built a small temple dedicated to Mars on the Capitolium, to which were later added other temples commissioned by Titus, Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius. By that time, the Capitoline Hill had become a place of worship and the destination for processions and victory parades.
During the Renaissance, Pope Paul III commissioned Michelangelo to design the Capitoline Square. In 1539, the great architect, sculptor and painter placed at the square’s centre the Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius, sculpted in 176 BC (today, a copy stands in its place, with the original kept in the Capitoline Museums). He also designed new access steps, the Cordonata, allowing the hill to be ascended on horseback.
Today, the Capitoline Square is flanked by the splendid Capitoline Museums. May we suggest at least four statues that are true masterpieces? The Capitoline Wolf, symbol of the city and Mater Romanorum, the Capitoline Venus, the Dying Galatian and Cupid and Psyche. Love Caravaggio? Then don’t miss “St John the Baptist”, painted by the artist in 1603.
Walk down the Capitoline Hill to the Roman Forum.