Capitoline Museums, a major exhibition tells the story of Republican Rome through archaeology

From January 13 to September 24, 2023, the Capitoline Museums, in Palazzo Caffarelli, will tell the story of Republican Rome through archaeology. On display are some 1,800 artifacts, most of them visible to the public for the first time.

The Capitoline Museums, in the rooms of Palazzo Caffarelli, present from January 13 to September 24, 2023 the exhibition La Roma della Repubblica. The Tale of Archaeology, curated by Isabella Damiani and Claudio Parisi Presicce and promoted by Roma Culture, Sovrintendenza Capitolina ai Beni Culturali, with the organization Zètema Progetto Cultura.

The exhibition aims to recount, through traditional methods of investigation and innovative reconstruction techniques, the characters and transformations of Roman society over five centuries, from the birth of the Republic to the creation of the Empire. The exhibition project constitutes the second chapter (after the 2018 exhibition La Roma dei Re (Rome of Kings )) of the great cycle The Tale of Archaeology, based mainly on the municipally owned collections preserved in the Superintendency’s warehouses and museums.

According to the approach given to the multi-year project, special emphasis in the structure and construction of the exhibition itinerary has been given to archaeological contexts, known for the most part through the specialized bibliography and in many cases totally unpublished, as the key to the reconstruction of the main aspects of Roman society and its transformations in the long period between the 5th century and the middle of the 1st century BC.

Divided into three main sections, the itinerary consists of a rich selection of about 1,800 works, including artifacts made of bronze, local stone, in rare cases marble, mainly terracotta and ceramics. An element of notable impact is the color, returned as a proposal based on the analysis of the terracottas that a careful work of recomposition allows to attribute to articulated decorative modules.

Almost all of the works on display are not usually visible to the public: in fact, in many cases they are objects that have hitherto been kept in theAntiquarium’s coffers, restored and exhibited for the first time. The material belonging to the Antiquarium’s collections is joined by a selection, of remarkable quality, of works preserved at the Centrale Montemartini, including the marble urn from the Esquiline, the small bronze goat sculpture from Via Magenta and the remains of frescoes from the so-called Arieti Tomb. Finally, from the museum sector of the Capitol comes a selection of portraits from the late Republican age, some of which are displayed in the halls of the Capitoline Museums and some of which are usually kept in storage.


The sanctuaries

The most quantitatively substantial section of the entire itinerary illustrates the archaeological remains that testify to the construction phases, craftsmanship characteristics and artistic level of the Templar buildings on the Capitoline Hill and in the Campus Martius.

Of great impact, due to the reconstructive proposal with the original colors, are the facing slabs of Largo Argentina dated between the second half of the 4th century BC and the middle of the 1st century BC. In the case of the Capitol, alongside the reconstruction of the monumental pediment from the Republican age of the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, the votive contexts that came to light with the works for the construction of the Conjunction Gallery are presented for the first time, together with materials from the already known votive deposit of the Protomoteca.

There was also a desire to emphasize the aspect of popular devotion, traces of which can be found in the votive deposits. The most important example is the one dedicated to Minerva Medica at the Esquiline, discovered in the late 19th century. Exposed to the public for the first time are the remains of the votive deposit that also came to light in the same period at Campo Verano, and those identified in the 1930s during the excavation of Velia Hill and at the Mithraeum of the Circus Maximus. A complex of materials long ignored and hitherto known only through individual elements of a particular artistic level consists of the remains of eleven terracotta figures found in the nineteenth century near the Via Latina.

Thanks to a long activity of study, graphic restitution, integrative restoration of the original fragments with 3D relief, digital sculpture and 3D printing technologies, it is now possible to propose the Capitoline Triad, Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, to be ideally relocated within a fronton space. This is a lofty example of coroplast dated to the early 1st century BC.

The palaces and urban infrastructure

The organization of the city’s infrastructure is exemplified by the archaeological evidence on the mode of water supply before the spread of aqueducts guaranteed by the numerous wells dug at the edges of the hills. On display are the numerous jugs sometimes with inscribed letters, accumulated in the wells of Largo Magnanapoli on the Quirinal, traceable to the time when the wells were decommissioned.

The remains of patrician domus on the Capitoline are evidenced by fragments of floors decorated with geometric patterns, made with black and white tiles or polychrome stones.


Aspects of craft production are a privileged vantage point for following the development of production systems. Pottery offers an important key to interpretation since this material left more lasting traces than other activities, such as stone, metal, and woodworking, which although had a fundamental place in the life of the city.

The exhibition recounts the stages of development of fine craftsmanship, which, from forms and techniques related to the traditions of the Archaic Agè, developed during the 4th and 3rd centuries with new productions, the fully painted crockery in both red and black, and the red-figure decorated pottery. The mold technique assumes a very important role in the productions of particular objects, such as the anatomical votives, and is well identifiable in the productions of the small altars (arule) that were particularly successful in the mid-Republican age and in the terracotta matrices presented in the exhibition.


Numerous are the objects and symbols through which certain social categories wished to communicate the high status they had attained or to emphasize their ancient belonging. The self-celebration of the aristocracy and emerging families found an important place of expression during the republican age in the funerary monuments placed along the city’s thoroughfares, to be read as part of the broader program of control of the city’s institutions and political life.

The fresco decorations of the Arieti tomb at the Esquiline with scenes related to combat and triumph, the stone sculptural groups from Campo Verano possibly belonging to a memorial monument, and the Greek marble urn again from the Esquiline constitute evidence of the rank of the deceased to whom they were pertinent, but they are also cues for assessing the characters and level of the artistic language with which they were expressed.

Image: Architectural terracotta from the Via Latina, central acroterium with horse’s head and neck (early 1st century BC; Capitoline Museums, Antiquarium)

Capitoline Museums, a major exhibition tells the story of Republican Rome through archaeology
Capitoline Museums, a major exhibition tells the story of Republican Rome through archaeology

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