Rome’s Campus Martius, or Field of Mars, is the flat plain just north of the Capitoline Hill and extending just south of the Piazza del Popolo. The eastern edge was the Via Flaminia, now the Corso, and the western line meandered along the Tiber’s waterfront. Today, it is where visitors to Rome find the Pantheon, the Piazza Navona and the Campo dei Fiori as well as many wonderful shops, restaurants, museums and churches. Two thousand years ago, however, this space that is only two-thirds the size of New York’s Central Park, had turned from a swampy military mustering ground to a fantastical playground containing Rome’s first stone theater, first imperial bathhouse, race tracks, amphitheaters, stadiums, porticoes, aqueducts and temples.
As described by the Greek geographer Strabo in the early 1st century A.D., “[I]n addition to its natural beauty, the [Campus Martius] has received still further adornment as a result of foresight. Indeed, the size of the Campus is remarkable, because it affords space at the same time and without interference, not only for chariot-races and every other equestrian exercise but also for all that multitude of people who exercise themselves by ball-playing, hoop trundling, and wrestling; and the works of art situated around the Campus Martius and the ground, which is covered with grass throughout the year, and the crowns of those hills that are above the river and extend as far as its bed, which present to the eye the appearance of a stage-painting – all this, I say, affords a spectacle that one can hardly draw away from.”Strabo, 5.3.8.
Many of these wondrous structures can be located hidden in the shadows of the warren of narrow streets that now cut through the Campus Martius, but only a careful eye will spot them. The purpose of this site is to assist the traveller to Rome to find some of the greatest monuments of the ancient world. It is a supplement to A Walk Through The Field of Mars – Rome’s Ancient Campus Martius A Piedi, a downloadable eBook that takes the visitor by the hand and leads him or her through this remarkable space.
It also complements Campus Martius – The Field of Mars in the Life of Ancient Rome by Paul W. Jacobs, II and Diane Atnally Conlin and published in 2014 by Cambridge University Press and The Lives of A Roman Neighborhood – Tracing the Imprint of the Past from 500 BCE to the Present published in 2023 also by Cambridge.
To enrich the experience, favorite restaurants, hotels, museum exhibits and other current events in this part of the centro storico will be presented. The journey through the field once sacred to the war god Mars is about to begin.