Largo Argentina

The next day we decided to look for the Pantheon. On the way to find it, we noticed this little pit of ruins.

Largo Argentina, overview

It turns out this is the Largo di Torre Argentina, a row of temples dating from the 4th century BC. The area was destroyed by fire in 111 BC, and the area was re-leveled at about a meter and a half higher than the original ground level. Shortly after that, in 107 BC, the square was reconstructed as part of the sweeping changes to the Campus Martinus area. It was made into the Porticus minucia vetus by Consul M. Minucius Rufus, an area of both religious and civic buildings, including the office of water distribution. In 80 AD the area was again destroyed by fire. The ground level was once again raised and the facades of the temples rebuilt. Like the rest of Rome the structures were altered and repurposed through the medieval period, until demolition work in 1926 uncovered the ruins of the ancient structures below.

Largo Argentina cats

Even today the area serves a dual purpose - while the active excavation continues, it doubles as a cat sanctuary. A large group of resident (spayed and neutered) cats stay there, and adoptions are held there regularly to remove the inevitable newcomers.

Largo Argentina temple A, Juturna

The original identity of the temples remains uncertain, so usually they go by letters. This one is called "Temple A" and dates to the 3rd century BC. It is probably the Temple of Juturna built by Gaius Lutatius Catulus after his victory against the Carthaginians in 241 BC. It was later rebuilt into a church, and a bit of the decoration from that structure remains. Juturna was the Roman goddess of fountains, wells, and springs. Later mythology has it that Jupiter turned Juturna into a nymph and gave her two sacred wells, one in Lavinium and another near the Vestal temple in the Roman Forum.

Largo Argentina temple B, Aedes Fortunae Huiusce Diei

Temple B was a circular temple, and the newest of the four, built in 101 BC. It was built by Quintus Lutatius Catulus to celebrate his victory over Cimbri. It was a temple of Aedes Fortunae Huiusce Diei, a temple of the luck of the current day. A collosal statue of the goddess of Luck was found in this temple, it now resides in the Capitoline Museums.

Largo Argentina temple B, Aedes Fortunae Huiusce Diei

The mosaic floor was added when the temple was rebuilt in 80 AD.

Largo Argentina temple C and D, Feronia and Lares Permarini

Temple C is the oldest, Temple D is represented only by that set of stairs that disappears under the street. Excavation on Temple D is limited due to the presence of the street above it, but it dates to the 2nd century BC and was devoted to Lares Permarini, ancient Roman genius loci of the sea. The genii loci were the protective spirits of a particular place in ancient Rome. Unlike the better-known Roman gods, which borrowed heavily from Greek mythology, the Lares came from an Etruscan lineage. In early Roman times most every household would have a statue or two of a Lares, and such statues were often placed at crossroads as well.

Largo Argentina temple C, Feronia, with cats

Temple C was built around 400 BC and was probably dedicated to Feronia, a goddess of the rural Etruscans. She is variously worshipped as a goddess of fertility, travel, fire, and water. Slaves regarded her as a goddess of freedom, and the ceremony of giving slaves their freedom may have been conducted in her temple.

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