The Capitoline Hill

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library.
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “View of the Capitol and Forum at the time of the emperors.” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed July 31, 2015. NYPL Digital Gallery

The Latin word for head is “caput” and so the most important hill of Rome is called the Capitoline because a legendary human skull was found buried in it (Livy I.55). It was located between the Roman forum and the Campus Martius (Field of Mars), which latter was located just beyond the city limits, so the Capitoline was within the city limits, enclosed within the earliest (Servian) city walls.

The Arx Capitolina (or just the Arx) was the citadel of Rome, like the Greek Acropolis, a high, defensible position, where religious rituals were performed and important temples, like that of Juno Moneta (site of the mint) were located.  It was also home to the temple of Iovis Optimi Maximi (Jupiter best and greatest).

  • On the Capitoline was the Mons Tarpeius or Tarpeian Rock, from which traitors and murderers were hurled to their deaths on the crags below. The Temple of Capitoline Jupiter, also located on the hill, served as asylum, availed of by the assassins of Caesar after their murder of the great man met less than universal approval.
  • The story of Manlius, Juno’s Sacred Geese, and the Gallic Siege of Rome (390 or 387 BC) are centered on the Capitoline Hill.

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