Tucked at the end of a small alley in the Rione Pigna, near the Pantheon, an astonishing over 1 meter long marble foot is placed on a tall pedestal: Romans love it and it gave its name to the adjacent street. The foot is apparently all that remains of a colossal Roman statue that, proportionally, must have been some eight meter tall, roughly the height of a two-story house.
Sculpted in a single block of marble with its base, the foot (the left foot, to be precise) wears a crepida sandal, a typical Greek and Roman footwear style, with a sole with a raised edge and leather laces that wrapped around the instep. The statue that wore it – perhaps an acrolith with a wooden body covered by drapery – was probably placed in the most important Egyptian shrine in Rome, the so-called Iseum Campense, a rich and grandiose temple dedicated to Isis and Serapis. Although nothing or almost nothing has survived of its structures, the small obelisks, sphinxes, lions, and the remains of the other statues that adorned it can still be admired in the city’s streets and museums: the tiny cat on the cornice of Palazzo Grazioli and the so-called Madama Lucrezia in Piazza San Marco, for example, come from the Iseum.
In the 16th century the marble foot was located along the wall of a palace where Via del Piè di Marmo meets Piazza del Collegio Romano. In 1878, however, to make way for the funeral procession of King Victor Emanuel II, it was moved back a few meters and placed in its present position on Via Santo Stefano del Cacco. This latter street also bears a reference to the temple dedicated to the Egyptian deities: “cacco” would in fact be the popular mispronunciation of macacco or macaque, the name given to a statue found in the area that depicted the god Thot in the guise of a baboon.
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