Part 7b: More about the Actual Site of the Assassination

This is the Curia Pompey site which was where Julius Caesar was assassinated, it is about 800 m northwest of the Roman Forum so a fifteen-minute walk at most. On a map this location is called the 'Largo di Torre Argentina' and it is a city block of excavated ruins with the famous cat sanctuary within. I believe many archaeologists and historians including Rome's Archaeology Department believe that the assassination site was the Curia (Hall) of Pompey.

I've been posting about the Curia Pompey's location on European travel message boards since about 1998 and in about 2004 or 2005 the City of Rome finally put up plaques all around this one block site which makes it a lot easier to find :-) .

These plaques have this EXCAVATION DIAGRAM upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/archive/7/71/20080316223211!Largo_torre_argentina_PIANTA.jpg. (the numbers on this image are not the same as the signs in Rome, though. The only spot we're interested in here is #3 in the image, but is labelled as #1 in the signs in Rome. This is the back edge of the Curia Pompey.)

On the Rome plaques, this spot reads, in Italian and English: "Remains of the central exedra of Pompey's portico. Used as the senate house, it was here that Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 15, 44 BC." It is in the exact location of the 'Tree' I mention below, but that is also the exact center of the Curia Pompey's rear section remains, so a logical place for them to put the label.

Also note on the 'Excavation Diagram' that the right (north) rear section of the Curia Pompey is missing which is about 25-30% but if you look over the sidewalk railing straight-down you can see a couple of those finely cut stone blocks (these type blocks are seen in the photo below) protruding from the area beneath the sidewalk at ground level, those are from the right (north) long side of the Curia Pompey |___..."<--- So even though the 25-30% is missing we can still see how wide this was.

The Hall's (Curia Pompey) prominent location in the exact center of the rear porticus would be visually attractive. A beautiful theater at one end, a large open area with trees, fountains, etc surrounded by a porticus and a temple-like Hall at the opposite end with a beautiful facade. Also this had to be an important building in this complex because it was elevated on a high foundation requiring steps to enter and very likely had a porch with columns, architrave, pediment, etc. If it was just a functional-type building (shop, storage, office, wc, etc) it would be at ground level like the shops on the southern-side of the porticus.

Now Suetonius, Plutarch and Appian claim Caesar was seated when attacked. Which seems likely because the Statue of Pompey was probably on or besides the podium as a place of honor, and Suetonius states that Caesar had a stylus in his hand with which he stabbed Casca in the arm after he struck the first blow.

This seems to rule out other locations like the Hall's front steps or porch because outside Marc Antony was being detained in a planned phony conversation with one of the conspirators. Plus it would be in public view with the possibility of the Mob turning against them. Or crossing the Hall to the podium: A moving target with the assassins also moving while trying to uncover their hidden daggers? Plus Caesar would be on his feet with the possibility of fleeing even wounded into the Senator's seats or to the front entrance. But just wait a few seconds longer until Caesar is seated and all the assassins are in position with their hidden daggers at the ready and then just await the signal to attack. Their victim now surrounded with his back figuratively against the wall.

[MODEL] www.vroma.org/images/raia_images/pompeyrecon.GIF That half-circle structure at the bottom of the model is the actual Theatre of Pompey. The large rectangular Porticus of Pompey is behind the theatre. And in the *exact center* of the rear section of the porticus is the Curia (Hall) of Pompey (small square building). And behind the rear porticus are four Temples (A, B, C, D). These temples predate Pompey's Theater and Porticus.

Directly behind the Curia Pompey is the circular Temple B and the rectangular Temple C (The Curia Pompey's rear corner actually butts up against the rear corner of Temple C). This PHOTO puts you at the top of the MODEL above looking between Temples B and C at the back wall of the Curia of Pompey: (sorry, broken link), but I believe this photo is nearly identical (and this one shows the slightly-wider view). Temple C is on the left and to the right you can see a curved section of the circular Temple B. The "Tree" I keep mentioning is the fourth tree from the left and next to the temple's column. Also you can see the Curia Pompey's concrete core and stone block facing at the end of the drainage ditch, those finely-cut stone blocks were likely looted as was the entire upper building except for the concrete foundation.

The cool thing about that Tree is it is *exactly* in the center of the Curia Pompey hall widthwise [.....T.....] and about 1 m in from the outside back wall, so picture a rectangular audience hall that tree would be growing inside, dead-center along the rear wall. The exact place where someone presiding over an assembly would be seated and exactly where a statue would be placed of the VIP (Pompey) who build this structure. [SIDE VIEW: Tree is right-center: www.vroma.org/images/raia_images/largoargent11.jpg] So if you had a time machine and went back to 44 BC along with that tree :-) , it would be growing inside the Curia Pompey alongside the back wall dead-center. [-____|||| <-front stepped entrance

What I am getting at is that any VIP that was going to address a crowd in this Hall would enter through the monumental front entrance, walk across the Hall and be seated along the back wall in the center on possibly a low podium perhaps similar to the Curia Julia in the Roman Forum www.vroma.org/images/raia_images/curia.jpg or just a chair placed there on the floor.

So now imagine the missing floor of the Curia Pompey hovering in the air just above the Tree's ruins in that photo and you are looking at the rear section of this building [- the rest of the Curia Pompey is beneath the sidewalk and street, with the stepped monumental entrance across the street beneath the sidewalk and modern buildings.

So it's very possible that 'Once Upon A Time' in that exact "Tree" space on the morning of the Ides Of March 44 BC, a seated Julius Caesar was struck by the first dagger and then raising to his feet he received an onslaught of stab wounds, finally falling to the floor and dying at the base of the Statue of Pompey? This is how Suetonius described it: "As he took his seat, the conspirators gathered about him as if to pay their respects, and straightway Tillius Cimber, who had assumed the lead, came nearer as though to ask something, and when Caesar with a gesture put him off to another time, Cimber caught his toga by both shoulders. Then as Caesar cried, "Why, this is violence!" one of the Cascas stabbed him from one side just below the throat. Caesar caught Casca's arm and ran it through with his stylus, but as he tried to leap to his feet, he was stopped by another wound. When he saw that he was beset on every side by drawn daggers, he muffled his head in his robe, and at the same time drew down its lap to his feet with his left hand, in order to fall more decently, with the lower part of his body also covered. And in this wise he was stabbed with three and twenty wounds, uttering not a word, but merely a groan at the first stroke, though some have written that when Marcus Brutus rushed at him, he said in Greek, "You too, my child?" All the conspirators made off, and he lay there lifeless for some time, and finally three common slaves put him on a litter and carried him home, with one arm hanging down. And of so many wounds none turned out to be mortal, in the opinion of the physician Antistius, except the second one in the breast." (This was the World's first recorded autopsy, which took place in the Domus Publica.)

Next: Part 8: Photo Links
[Home]                         copyright (c) 2012-2018 by Jeff Bondono                         [Walter's Tours of Ancient Rome]