Summary

The Capitoline Hill (Italian: Campidoglio) between the Forum and the Campus Martius, is one of the Seven Hills of Rome. The hill was earlier known as Mons Saturnius, dedicated to the god Saturn.

The word Capitolium first meant the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus later built here, and afterwards it was used for the whole hill (and even other temples of Jupiter on other hills), thus Mons Capitolinus (the adjective noun of Capitolium). Ancient sources refer the name to caput (“head”, “summit”) and the tale was that, when laying the foundations for the temple, the head of a man was found.

By the 16th century, Capitolinus had become Capitolino in Italian, and Capitolium Campidoglio. The Capitoline Hill contains few ancient ground-level ruins, as they are almost entirely covered up by Medieval and Renaissance palaces (now housing the Capitoline Museums) that surround a piazza, a significant urban plan designed by Michelangelo.

Influenced by Roman architecture and Roman republican times, the word Capitolium still lives in the English word capitol.

John Evelyn mentions the Capitol during his visit to Rome:

“The Capitol, to which we climbed by very broad steps, is built about a square court, at the right hand of which, going up from Campo Vaccino, gushes a plentiful stream from the statue of Tiber, in porphyry, very antique, and another representing Rome; but, above all, is the admirable figure of Marforius, casting water into a most ample concha. The front of this court is crowned with an excellent fabric containing the Courts of Justice, and where the Criminal Notary sits, and others. In one of the halls they show the statues of Gregory XIII. and Paul III., with several others. To this joins a handsome tower, the whole faciata adorned with noble statues, both on the outside and on the battlements, ascended by a double pair of stairs, and a stately Posario.”

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Sources

  • Diary