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In Roman times this hill was called the Capitoline Hill, the smallest of Rome's 7 hills and, right from the beginning, the centre of their religion. Its height and its steep sides made it an impregnable citadel. The two peaks that formed the hill, the Arx and the Capitolium, were separated by the Asylum which corresponds to today's piazza. In the Middle Ages, this had already become the centre of the city's political life with the erection here of the Palazzo Senatorio and the Palazzo dei Conservatori. The piazza, as you see it today, is the work of Michelangelo, following the orders of Pope Paul III. This Pope inherited a city reeling from the terrible sacking of 1527 and he wished to send a message of strength to the Holy Roman Emperor who had returned to Rome after a victorious crusade. At the same time he wanted to use this symbolic place as a means of asserting his position over the city itself. Michelangelo's grandiose plan for the piazza was not completed until 1940 when the paving stones were laid down. As you go up his monumental flight of steps, the Cordonata, the extraordinary scenario unfolds before your eyes. The side buildings take on the role of the wings of a stage while the Palazzo Senatorio, the symbol of the city's institutions, provides the backdrop to the undisputed main actor of this stage - the statue of Marcus Aurelius in the centre of the piazza. This is the one equestrian statue in existence from Imperial Rome. As the emperor turns his back on the Roman forums and looks toward the Vatican, the positioning of the statue confirms the passing of imperial power to the papacy. Today, the Palazzo Senatorio is Rome's City Hall. The other buildings – the Palazzo Dei Conservatori, on the right, and the Palazzo Nuovo, on the left- house the Capitoline Museums, an immense collection of artwork initiated by Pope Sixtus IV when he gave , among other pieces, the famous Lupa, statue of the she-wolf and symbol of Rome.

Roman Forum

If you go to the right outside the Palazzo Senatorio, you will see traces of the great temple of the Capitoline Triad, the most important in the ancient city, and you reach the terrace looking out over the valley of the Roman Forum. This valley is at the centre of the 7 hills and was originally a marshy area used as a burial ground. It was drained as far back as the 7th century BC and at once became the centre of the political, commercial and religious life of the recently-born township. Later, the Roman Forum lost its political role to the Imperial Forums, but it always remained the monumental and symbolic centre of Rome. Excavations have revealed the remains of buildings constructed over the centuries between the birth of Rome and the end of the Empire. When the city lost its central role in the political life of the Holy Roman Empire, the Forum- the center and symbol of Pagan Rome- also lost its statues, its columns, its marble decorations and its buildings as they were used to construct the new symbols of Christian Rome. You go down into the Roman Forum from the recently uncovered Clivus Capitolinus, the only road that linked the Forum with the Capitoline Hill. This was the final stretch of the triumphal procession where the victorious warrior left behind his prisoners, his army, his booty and the senate, and went up alone to the Temple of Jupiter where glory awaited him. In the audio guide, as you visit the forum, you will be able to see the most significant and important places and monuments which this, the last of the great ancient civilizations, produced.  

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