The Capitoline Hill, between the Forum and the Campus Martius, is one of the Seven Hills of Rome.
The hill was earlier known as Mons Saturnius, dedicated to the god Saturn. The word Capitolium first meant the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus later built here, and afterwards it was used for the whole hill (and even other temples of Jupiter on other hills), thus Mons Capitolinus (the adjective noun of Capitolium). Ancient sources refer the name to caput ("head", "summit") and the tale was that, when laying the foundations for the temple, the head of a man was found, some sources even saying it was the head of some Tolus or Olus. The Capitolium was regarded by the Romans as indestructible, and was adopted as a symbol of eternity.
By the 16th century, Capitolinus had become Capitolino in Italian, and Capitolium Campidoglio. The Capitoline Hill contains few ancient ground-level ruins, as they are almost entirely covered up by Medieval and Renaissance palaces (now housing the Capitoline Museums) that surround a piazza, a significant urban plan designed by Michelangelo.
At this hill, the Sabines, creeping to the Citadel, were let in by the Roman maiden Tarpeia. For this treachery, Tarpeia was the first to be punished by being flung from a steep cliff overlooking the Roman Forum. This cliff was later named the Tarpeian Rock after the Vestal Virgin, and became a frequent execution site. The Sabines, who immigrated to Rome following the Rape of the Sabine Women, settled on the Capitoline. The Vulcanal (Shrine of Vulcan), an 8th-century BC sacred precinct, occupied much of the eastern lower slopes of the Capitoline, at the head of what would later become the Roman Forum. The summit was the site of a temple for the Capitoline Triad, started by Rome's fifth king, Tarquinius Priscus (r. 616−579 BC), and completed by the seventh and last king, Tarquinius Superbus (535−496 BC). It was considered one of the largest and the most beautiful temples in the city (although little now remains). The city legend starts with the recovery of a human skull (the word for head in Latin is caput) when foundation trenches were being dug for the Temple of Jupiter at Tarquin's order. Recent excavations on the Capitoline uncovered an early cemetery under the Temple of Jupiter.
The Tabularium, located underground beneath the piazza and hilltop, occupies a building of the same name built in the 1st century BC to hold Roman records of state. The Tabularium looks out from the rear onto the Roman Forum. The main attraction of the Tabularium, besides the structure itself, is the Temple of Veiovis. During the lengthy period of ancient Rome, the Capitoline Hill was the geographical and ceremonial center. However, by the Renaissance, the former center was an untidy conglomeration of dilapidated buildings and the site of executions of criminals.