In the early Roman Empire, people deemed traitors and criminals were tossed to their deaths from this rock.
Tarpeian Rock (Rupe Tarpea) is a steep cliff located on the southern side of the Capitoline Hill, just above the Roman Forum. For centuries, the location was used an an execution sites. People who had been convicted of crimes were thrown from the 80 foot (25-meter) cliff ledge down to the Forum below. This method of execution carried a stigma of shame and was considered a fate worse than death. It was reserved as punishment for crimes that were considered especially heinous: treason, murder, and perjury.
According to legend, Tarpeia, the daughter of Roman commander Spurius Tarpeius, betrayed Rome and opened the doors of the city to the Sabine king Titus Tatius. Tatius was attacking Rome in the aftermath of the Rapes of the Sabines during the 8th century B.C. Tarpeia was corrupted by the enemy king and lusted for gold and jewels. Although she helped the Sabines, they crushed her with their shields and buried her on what became known as the Tarpeian Rock. Not long after, the cliff became an execution site for traitors.
The shrines built by the Sabines on Tarpeian Rock were demolished around 500 B.C. by the seventh and last King of Rome, Tarquinius Superbus, who leveled the area to construct the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus. At the time, it was the most important temple in Rome. The cliff was used for executions until the late first century.
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