The Capitoline Hill was the earliest Roman citadel. Being one of the seven great hills of the city, the hill is located between the Campus Martius and the Roman Forum.
Capitoline Hill is the most important and the smallest of all the seven ancient hills of Rome. In the ancient days, before the era of the republican, the kings of Rome built gorgeous temples on the hill. This made the famous Capitoline Hill a symbol of the reign of Rome as Caput Mundi, which is literally translated as the “head of the world.”
Capitoline Hill is a religious and political heart of the city of Rome. Traces of an ancient settlement that existed on the Capitoline Hill in the Iron Age were uncovered during the excavations of the hill. The hill was an attractive location for the early people to settle, since it has rocky slopes that are steep. These slopes offer a natural protection to the people against intruders and enemies.
Capitoline Hill consisted of two summits which included the larger Capitolium to the southern part of the hill and the Arx in the northern part of the hill. The area occupying the center of the two summits was known as the Asylum. It was called an asylum because it offered shelter for the refugees from other regions. The temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus Capitolinus was the most impressive and the largest of the temples built on the Capitoline Hill. Astonishingly gilded, the temple was a very unique and vital ancient Rome sanctuary. The temple was built in the sixth century BC on the present location of the Palazzo dei Conservatori (Capitoline Museum). At the south of the temple of Jupiter is the Tarpeian Rock, which was named after a woman after she helped the Sabines to conquer the hill during the reign of the legendary Rome founder, Romulus.
In the ancient days, the traitors of the city were thrown from the Tarpeian Rock. The traces of the ancient temples are still very visible on the Capitoline Hill today and the north slope of the hill has been dominated by a magnificent 19th century monument that was built for the first king of Italy. The stunning Piazza del Campidoglio is one of the major attractions of the Capitoline Hill. The famous attraction can be accessed from the hill foot by walking up the impressive Cordonata stairs. There are three palazzos at the square; the facades of all the three were designed by Michelangelo. One of the palazzos is the city hall of Rome (Palazzo Senatorio). The other two are the Palazzo Nuovo and the Palazzo dei Conservatori which constitute the Capitoline Museums.
Other historical places to explore on the Capitoline Hill include the Santa Maria in Aracoeli and Victor Emmanuel Monument.