Behind the theatre there is the Jewish Ghetto. This was the quarter, established in 1555 by Pope Paul V, where Jews were required to live until Rome became the capital of Italy. One of the first acts of the newly unified nation was to pull down the shameful walls of this ghetto.
In the beginning, 1750 people lived her but, over time, this number grew to 5000, resulting in harsh living conditions and dilapidation of the area.
The ghetto came to be identified with the Portico of Octavia
which, although going back to the 2nd century BC, was reconstructed by the Emperor Augustus and dedicated to his beloved sister, Octavia. This district had been a cultural hotbed of ancient Rome.
An incredible number of magnificent statues were used to decorate the area. Among these, the famous sculptor Lisippus carved 34 equestrian statues of Alexander and his generals in bronze. Here too was the first statue of a woman put on public display-the bronze statue of Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi.
After the 10th century, the portico and the theater of Marcellus became commercial and craft centers, many of which were managed by Jews who moved here as Trastevere became progressively impoverished during the Middle Ages. Here they were protected by powerful Roman families, the Matteis, the Cencis and the Pierleonis.
The ghetto was the scene of one of recent history's bitterest events: on the night of October 16th 1943, the Nazis rounded up and deported 1000 men, women, and children. Only 16 of these returned from concentration camps.