Via del Teatro di Marcello
For hundreds of years the image of a she-wolf (lupa) suckling the legendary twins, Romulus and Remus, has been one of the symbols of Rome. And, though it is now hard to believe, a real wolf was once kept on display in a cage in the very heart of the city.
From 1872, the year after Rome became the capital of Italy, until the early 1970s, a caged wolf was displayed in the centre of the Eternal City. The cage was first situated in the small garden to the left of the Cordonata, the flight of steps that leads up to
Piazza del Campidoglio. At some point in the 1920s, at the behest of Benito Mussolini (r. 1922-43), Italy's Fascist dictator, a caged eagle was added to the garden. (The eagle was a prominent symbol in the army of ancient Rome.)
In 1935 the caged creatures were moved to a spot at the base of the Capitoline Hill, overlooking the newly created Via del Mare, today's Via del Teatro di Marcello. There they, and their successors, remained until 1971 when the last wolf was moved to Rome's zoo. In the following year the eagle died. Neither were replaced.
The hapless creatures may have gone, but their cages are still standing.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private and
small-group walking tours
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