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Bronze Etruscan statues found in San Casciano dei Bagni
Bronze Etruscan statues found in San Casciano dei Bagni

Rome, the Eternal City, is renowned for its rich history and cultural treasures. However, even in a city steeped in history, there are always new discoveries and events capturing attention. Three recent developments in Rome worth noting are: an exhibition of rare ancient bronze statues, the opening of Largo di Torre Argentina to visitors, and the return of looted relics, including a fresco from Herculaneum.

Rare Ancient Bronze Statues Displayed in Rome

Last year in Tuscany, 24 bronze statues were unearthed in the ruins of San Casciano dei Bagni, an ancient spring site used by both the Etruscans and Romans for worship. These statues, dedicated to deities and such commissioned by affluent families, represent the most significant find of its kind in Italy. The collection includes a reclining Hygeia and a statue of Apollo. These rare artifacts are currently (2023) on display at the Palazzo Quirinale in Rome, before their eventual home at a museum in San Casciano dei Bagni. The statues surrounded an oval basin filled with therapeutic water. Smaller artifacts and coins, tossed into the water in hopes of divine favor, were also discovered.

Palazzo Quirinale, P.za del Quirinale, 00187 Roma RM, Italy - https://palazzo.quirinale.it/

Largo di Torre Argentina Opens to Visitors

largo argentina rome

For nearly a century, only cats roamed freely in the Sacred Area of Largo di Torre Argentina, believed to be the site where Julius Caesar was assassinated. Now, human visitors finally have the chance to descend and view the ruins up close. This site, comprising four temples from the Roman Republic and the Curia of Pompeii, provides a captivating glimpse into ancient Rome. Visitors can admire the marble decorations and statues that had been in storage for years. This site's opening enriches Rome's archaeological offerings, attracting both locals and tourists.

There isn't an X-marks-the-spot where Julius Caesar met his bloody end, contrary to what tradition and Shakespeare's play "Julius Caesar" might suggest. It's hard to picture, given the drama's portrayal of the murder occurring at the forum. In reality, Caesar was assassinated in the Curia of Pompeii, a large rectangular hall where the Roman Senate occasionally met. Still, Shakespeare took some artistic liberties, placing the murder on the steps of the forum.

Area Sacra del Largo Argentina, Largo di Torre Argentina, 00186 Roma RM, Italy - https://sovraintendenzaroma.it/i_luoghi/roma_antica/aree_archeologiche/area_sacra_di_largo_argentina

Return of Looted Relics, Including a Fresco from Herculaneum

fresco from Herculaneum now in rome

Italy recently showcased a fresco looted from the ancient Roman resort town of Herculaneum. This fresco survived the eruption of the Vesuvius in 79 AD and was smuggled into the US before finally being returned to Italy. This fresco is just one of 60 relics repatriated to their homeland. These stolen artworks, valued at over $20 million, include an Etruscan kylix, bronze busts, ancient vases, and utensils, sourced from museums like the Metropolitan in New York and the Getty in Los Angeles. Last year, the Getty returned a group of life-sized terracotta statues known as Orpheus and the Sirens.

A white marble bust of the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus, stolen from a southern Campania museum in Italy in 1984, was discovered in June 2020 just as it was to be auctioned at Christie's in New York.

Italy had requested the return of the Herculaneum fresco, depicting a young Hercules strangling a serpent, back in 1997. It was initially believed that the fresco was stolen by tombaroli, or tomb raiders, who for years made a fortune looting Italy's archaeological sites and selling the relics to art dealers worldwide. Some of the repatriated artifacts are now displayed at the Museum of Rescued Art in Rome before returning to their origin.

Museo Nazionale Romano, Terme di Diocleziano, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Viale Enrico de Nicola, 78, 00185 Roma RM, Italy - https://museonazionaleromano.beniculturali.it/