Et tu, Caesar: legendary site of dictator’s murder now open to Rome tourists

An ancient temple complex in the centre of the Italian capital where, according to legend, Julius Caesar was assassinated, was opened to the public for the first time on Tuesday.

The “sacred area” at Largo Argentina square, which until now could only be viewed from street level, contains four temples dating back to the third century BC, as well as the remains of Pompey’s theatre, where the Roman dictator was believed to have been stabbed to death by disgruntled senators in 44BC.

In an iconic account of the killing, embellished by William Shakespeare, the dying leader is said to have exclaimed, “Et tu, Brute?” after seeing his friend Brutus among his murderers. He was killed not long after his lifetime appointment as dictator of Rome.

The temples, which were built to commemorate the Roman Republic’s victories over its enemies, and theatre were rediscovered in 1927 when the colossal head and arms of a marble statue were found during works to rebuild parts of Rome.

The site is also known for being home to dozens of stray cats.

“My dad sent me a message about the opening last night after seeing a story about it in a Belgian newspaper,” said Caroline De Wenter, who visited the archaeological site on the last day of a six-day trip to Rome with her partner, Oliver Vandermeereh. “We fly home tonight but just had to make sure we saw it.”

Vandermeereh said: “Rome is fascinating. Everywhere is so rich in Roman history and the Roman empire. But to be so close to where they say Caesar was murdered is really quite special.”

The site, which is surrounded by traffic-clogged roads, opened after a development project funded by the Italian fashion house Bulgari, overseen by Rome’s superintendency of cultural heritage. Visitors can wander through the site on a walkway to view the ruins up close. Other relics excavated there over the decades, including two statue heads, pillars and fragments of tombs, are on view in an adjacent room.

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