The square is in the middle of an ancient commercial area between Rome and the harbour along the river by the Tiber Island and the Emporium, the warehouse. Here there were also the Forum Olitorio (for vegetables) and the Forum Boario (cattle); bankers and moneychangers run their business in the Velabro. After the Fall of the Roman Empire it fell under Byzantine influence and became the centre of the Greek colony. In this area capital executions took place until 1868 using the guillotine.
Here was in charge the famous Mastro Titta who from 1796 to 1864 became sadly known for having cutted 516 heads! Nowadays the square offers a complex of monuments unique in the world: two ancient temples still preserved, a fountain dating back to the 1700's, a medieval church flanked by a splendid bell-tower. The Temple of Vesta which is named after its uncanny but unconnected resemblance to the Temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum. It is among Rome's first marble buildings dating back to the II cent. B.C. its initial dedication was to the conquering god Hercules Victor. It was consecrated as a Christian church, the interior walls were painted with frescoes in the 1400's.
Beside it rises the Temple of Portunus, a god of harbours, typical example of Greek-Roman architecture which dates from the 2nd century B.C. Until the 1800's the church was dedicated to Santa Maria Egiziaca, ex-courtesan and for this reason she bacame the protectress of prositutes. To decorate the square the pope, Clemens XI commissioned a beautiful late-baroque fountain, designed in 1715 by Carlo Bizzaccheri, two tritons, with their tails woven raise two shells and on the top the mountains, symbol of the Albani family, tossing a jet up in the air.