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It is too easy to take Rome for granted. Huge monumental ruins dwarfing the smaller details soon become the stuff of living or visiting the city. So the Largo Argentina gets ignored, as I’ve noted in the past.

This week I have had to attend regular meetings in the Ministry of Culture in the Collegio Romano. By far the most precious aspect of this regimen has been my daily perambulation through the city. It is the detail of the lost Roman metropolis that has come to fascinate me. Take two provocative examples.

My route takes me down the Via de Gesù, past one of my favourite restaurants (the Enoteca Corsi) with a wonderful cantina – opposite is a lone column capped by a battered capital cemented into the wall. Why? What great monument did the half-sunken column belong to? It is anonymous and yet encourages me to flip through the works of Rodolfo Lanciani to see if this great Roman archaeologist noted its existence. Anywhere else and its exceptionalism would be prized.

The sunken column opposite the Enoteca Corsi

On, I go past shops for painters, slimmed-down cafés and pleasing outfitters befitting a small country town rather than a capital.

I pause at the Via S. Stefano in Cacco. Here, confined by brass bars is a colossal marble foot, almost certainly from the great (lost) temple of Isis that lay close to the Piazza della Minerva. It is an arresting sight, at least for me. The temple was rebuilt by Domitian after a Fire in AD 80, and the generally accepted view is that the form of the gigantic sandal suggests a male cult statue, possibly Isis’ consort, Serapis.

The marble foot

Today I stooped to see what the sign says about this fragment of a marble colossus. Nothing about its meaning; just a note on its conservation. Forgotten perhaps, but truly extraordinary if only to remind the passer-by that this was once a city of giants (as an Anglo-Saxon poet put it).

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