The Vicolo dell’Atleta (“Alley of the Athlete”) in Rome owes its name to the discovery of a statue of an athlete there, around the middle of the 19th century.
Vicolo dell’Atleta Rome
The statue, which is called Apoxyomonos (Greek for he who cleans himself) and can be seen in the Vatican Museums, depicts an athlete washing himself with a so-called strigile, a curved knife used for scraping one’s body clean when sweating. It is a marble copy of an original made by the Greek sculptor Lisippo, which used to be placed at the entrance of the Terme di Agrippa. It is said that, when Emperor Tiberius had the statue moved to his own residence, the people of Rome had demanded that he place it back.
After its excavation the statue was restored by the sculptor Tenerani. In 1994 it was again completely cleaned.
The Apoxyomonos was not the only statue found in the Vicolo dell’Atleta. Various fragments of other sculptures were found, including that of a horse made by Lisippo.
Before its conversion to Vicolo dell’Atleta the street was called Vicolo delle Palme, because of the palm trees that stood outside the ancient Jewish synagogue, which was destroyed in a fire in 1268.
The Synagogue had been constructed in the Trastevere neighborhood because this is where the first Jewish settlements were found. It was not until later that the Jewish community moved to the rione Sant’Angelo. The Synagogue had been founded by the lexicographer Nathaniel ben Jechiel and is thought to have been located at the spot where nowadays a medieval house, with a loggia with arches supported by columns, can be seen.