The introduction establishes premodern ways of knowing the Capitoline Hill, from the poetry of Ennius and Vergil and the antiquarian writings of Varro, Servius, and Justus Rycquius to the historiography of Q. Fabius Pictor, Livy, and late antique chronicles. What made the mountain holy was its association with gold as a symbol of Roman military supremacy, a physical realization of Vergil’s iconic appellation of the hill as the Golden Capitol. The loss of the Capitol’s gold and its tropic quality of goldness led Bracciolini, Niebuhr, Lanciani, and Gatteschi either to opine the loss of Rome’s grandeur or to search for the hidden treasures of the hill or attempt to reconstruct its lost monumentality. This nostalgia set up a paradigm for the dismissal of the postclassical Capitoline Hill as a pile of insignificant ruins, thus obscuring the vitality of the hill for the social and intellectual life of the late empire.
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