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  • Temple of Hercules

    By Anthony Parente

    Temple of Hercules
    Located in the Piazza della Bocca della Verità within the Forum Boarium along the eastern bank of the Tiber River in Rome is the Temple of Hercules Victor also known as Temple of Hercules Olivarius (protector of olive oil). Many believe that the temple was commissioned by Marcus Octavius Herrenus who gained his wealth in the olive trade. Construction of the temple is considered the work of the Greek architect Hermodoros of Salamina. The Temple is one of the oldest buildings in Rome and the only surviving sacred structure made of prestigious Greek marble.

    The temple was built around 120 BC and is considered a tholos, which is a circular structure with a ring of columns supporting a domed roof. The temple consists of 20 Corinthian columns (10.6 m tall) on a tuff foundation supporting a roof. The interior consists of an inner chamber or cella, which contained a bronze statue by the Greek sculptor Scopas Minor dedicated to Hercules. The statue has since been removed and placed in the Capitoline Museum.

    In ancient Rome, the area along the Tiber where the temple is located was primarily a cattle market. A popular folk belief states that neither flies nor dogs would enter the temple.

    In the 12th century Pope Innocent II had the temple converted into a church dedicated to Santo Stefano, patron of carriages. In the 17th century it was rededicated to Santa Maria del Sole (Saint Mary of the Sun) after the discovery of a patron icon of the Virgin Mary floating in the Tiber River. The icon was placed in the cella. Towards the end of the 19th century the church was deconsecrated, and the icon moved to the Oratorio del Santissimo Crocifisso. Fortunately, a major conservation program took place to restore the temple to its original glory.

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