A photo of Castor, one of the Dioscuri at the Piazza di Campidoglio. In Greco-Roman mythology, the twin brothers Castor and Pollux, sometimes known as the Polydeuces were really half brothers, one the son of the king of Sparta and the latter the divine son of Zeus, conceived during their mother Leda's affair with him in the guise of a swan. They are known as the Gemini in Latin as well, and were considered the protectors of Rome. In art, they are often represented as horse tamers, and were considered helpers of mankind, patrons of travelers and sailors.
These two sculptures are located on the Capitoline, whose piazza was designed in 1536 by Michelangelo, but it took almost 100 years to complete (or more than 400 if you count the paving of the courtyard, only completed under Mussolini in the 20th century). The figures stand at the top of Michelangelo's Cordonata ramp, a wide staircase with shallow steps, reportedly intended to allow access to horses. The Piazza features the Palazzo Senatorio in the background, which is built atop the ancient Tabularium. The statures are actually ancient, originally from the Temple of Castor and Pollux, founded on the spot where they were reportedly seen after the Battle of Lake Regillus where they helped in the defeat of the last king of Rome; they celebrated the victory by watering their horses at the Spring of Juturna, where the temple was eventually situated. The temple's famous three columns still stand in the Roman Forum. The sculptures were originally created during the reign of Septimius Severus, around 200 AD, and were found in ruins in the early sixteenth century near the church of San Tommaso. They were restored (including the addition of a reproduction of Castor's missing head as the original was never found) and placed here, although the Cordonata was supposed to have included the statues of the Dioscuri now located in the Piazza Quirinale. The restoration is still quite evident upon close inspection, as the fragments can still be seen.
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