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The Spot Where Caesar Fell Is Opening As A Museum

Steve Palace
The assassination of Julius Caesar, painted by William Holmes Sullivan, c. 1888
The assassination of Julius Caesar, painted by William Holmes Sullivan, c. 1888

Area Sacra di Largo Argentina, an ancient location in Rome said to be the place where Emperor Julius Caesar met his end will open to the public in 2022 as an open-air museum.

And deceased rulers aren’t the only local talking point. It’s become a haven for stray felines. They may be smaller than the Emperors of Rome. But as any cat owner can confirm, their attitude is much the same!

Renovations of Area Sacra di Largo Argentina

A year-long renovation of Area Sacra begins this month, paid for by Italian fashion retailer Bulgari at a reported cost of $1.2 million.

The square, containing temple foundations and structural remains, is sunken into the ground. Not even the coronavirus halted development on the museum, as reported by Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Largo di Torre Argentina in Rome. Temple B.
Site of Temple B in Area Sacra di Largo Argentina. (Photo Credit: Wknight94 / Wikipedia CC BY SA-3.0)

Four temples are thought to have stood there back in the day. Built between the 4th and 1st centuries BC (the Republican period), they incorporated “a circular monument to the goddess of Fortune, whose colossal marble head now sits in Rome’s Centrale Montemartini museum,” according to AFP.

They write that footpaths, elevated walkways — which light up when the sun goes down — and an elevator are part of the project. A “covered exhibition area” will occupy one side of the square.

According to coverage in various outlets, information panels placed throughout the site are intended to give tourists and general visitors the historical lowdown.

Information includes the area’s former status as “a training ground for Roman soldiers.” Deutsche Welle notes that troops practiced swordplay on the former Field of Mars, which took its name from the god of war.

Because Area Sacra is an archaeological site, there’s a range of evidence to help bring the experience to life. “Statues, inscriptions, and terracotta vessels, among other artifacts unearthed by archaeologists” are to be placed next to the explanatory panels, writes Smithsonian magazine.

Rediscovery of the site

Area Sacra di Largo Argentina came back into the public eye via an unexpected source — Mussolini. The dictator was Italy’s Prime Minister in 1926 when the square revealed itself following the destruction of medieval buildings.

Ruins of Temple A in Area Sacra di Torre Argentina
Ruins of Temple A in Area Sacra di Torre Argentina. (Photo Credit: Adam Carr, Public Domain)

Italy was trashing its medieval history on his orders. But why? To get at something Mussolini deemed better — Ancient Roman remains that had been obscured over the centuries. Smithsonian magazine highlights this in a 2019 piece. It reads that he wanted to “tangibly tie his dictatorship to the might of the Roman Empire.”

Mussolini wound up dead like Julius Caesar, though the method used was somewhat different. In 44 BC a plot was hatched to bump off the toga-wearer in chief. The murder apparently happened at the Curia Pompei. As AFP reports, the Senate building’s limestone foundation is among those sights to be seen at the Area Sacra di Largo Argentina.

William Shakespeare wrote his own version of Caesar’s life — and death. His line of “Et tu, Brute?” (“And you, Brutus?”), as the Emperor realizes his friend is in on the scheme, has passed into the lexicon.

The site is home to some furry friends

On a more humane subject, Deutsche Welle mentions the organization Torre Argentina. Are they something to do with Ancient Roman history? Yes and no. They look after its current residents…of the four-pawed variety.

The Area Sacra is home to many cats.
A cat who calls the Area Sacra home. (Photo Credit: Tjflex2 / Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The outlet writes, “this no-kill shelter conducts sterilization and adoption programs besides offering shelter to wounded or old cats.”

Local authorities are taking the welfare of the animals seriously while construction work is in progress. Quoted by AFP, Mayor Virginia Raggi refers to the assembled kitties as a “historic feline colony.”

More from us: The Forgotten Son of Caesar and Cleopatra

It’s hoped that with the vaccine rollout, tourism will pick up again at locations such as Area Sacra di Largo Argentina. Deutsche Welle compares the site to the Pantheon, Trastevere, and Roman Forum in terms of attention-grabbing potential.

Ultimately, however, some are there just to watch and stroke the cats. Come for the assassination, stay for the snuggles.