Cities of Vesuvius

- Syllabus Content -

Public Buildings: basilicas, temples, fora, theatres, palaestra, amphitheatres
Religion: temples, household gods, foreign cults, tombs

  • What temples are there in Pompeii and Herculaneum?
  • Where were temples situated? Mark them on your map.
  • What was the purpose of a temple?
  • What are the design features of a temple?
  • Identify the main features on the floor plan of a Pompeian temple.

Temples in Pompeii

  • Temple of Jupiter (VII,8,1)
  • Temple of Apollo (VII,7,32)
  • Temple of Venus (VII,1,3)
  • Temple of Asceplius (Jupiter Meilichius: VIII,7,25)
  • Temple of Isis (VIII,7,28)
  • Sanctuary of the public Lares (VII,9,3)
  • Doric temple (VIII,7,30-34)
  • Temple of Fortuna Augusta (VII,4,1)
  • Aedes Genii Augusti (VII,9,2 – also known as the Temple of Vespasian)

  • to house the images and statues of the gods and the objects associated with their worship
  • a place where rituals and sacrifices were carried out by priests or priestess to honour the gods and gain their favour.
  • Temples or religious buildings dedicated to the Imperial Cult showed the loyalty of the people to Rome.

Design Features
Most temples followed a basic structure of an enclosed rectangular space, which inside housed a cella (house of the gods) where the statue of the god was contained. The temple was usually surrounded in part or in full by columns. The front of the temple usually opened onto a colonnade. The temples in Pompeii were the responsibility of the Aediles. The number of temples highlights the importance of religion in the lives of the Pompeian’s and the use of temples and religion in political and social fields.

289px-Pompeii_Regio_07_Insula_08_Temple_of_Jupiter_plan.jpgExample of a temple – Temple of Jupiter

Damaged by the earthquake (AD 62 – see bas-relief from house of L. Caecilius Jucundus) – repaired. (see p.152 for description of the temple). Games held in honour of the Triad every 1st September.
  • Where: north end of the Forum. It was the dominant feature of the Forum.
  • When: build in the 2nd century BC
  • Who: Dedicated to Jupiter. After Pompeii became a Roman colony (80 BC) the temple was rededicated to the Capitoline Triad, Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. It became a symbol of Rome’s power in Pompeii.
  • Italic style
  • Constructed on a high base 10 feet x 121 feet
  • Double flight of stairs, one either side of the central altar, led to a platform at the foot of the podium, with two arches either side of the stairs
  • The Cella contained a triple pedestal which was designed to hold the three statues of Juno, Jupiter, and Minerva; the head of Jupiter is now located at the Archaeological Museum in Naples
  • The cella had geometric design mosaic marble floor
  • Column remains are shown to have been along the sides of the Temple, each column is estimated to have been 8.4m high
  • The chambers below the main hall were used to store sacrificial offerings and also the treasury of the city
  • Extensively damaged during the earthquake of AD 62 (see bas-relief from house of L. Caecilius Jucundus) but was repaired and in working order when the eruption occurred.
  • On the 1st of September each year games were held in honour of the triad of gods
Go to Temple of Jupiter at Pompeii in Pictures / Soprintendenza / Rene Seindal

The Imperial Cult – Temple of Vespasian
  • Where: the western side of the Forum, next to the building of Eumachia
  • The temple of Vespasian was the most prominent place of adoration and worship of the Imperial cult.
  • The Front wall of the outer structure still remains and is made of bricks; the side walls are decorated with windows and a cella raised on a pedestal.
  • Cella located at the rear of the temple on a tall podium with a base for the statue of the Emperor.
  • A large courtyard
  • A white marble altar is located outside the temple, in the courtyard, which is decorated with scenes of sacrifice. The front side of the altar depicts a bull sacrifice which was a rite performed in the honour of the Emperor.

Go to the Temple of Vespasian at Pompeii in Pictures / Rene Seindal

Temple of Vespasian - Entrance

Temple of Vespasian

Foreign Cult – The Temple of Isis
See “Foreign Cults” in Religion section.

Temples in Herculaneum

At Herculaneum, so far, no temples have been excavated; however evidence of religious life and associations with temples has been uncovered:
  • an inscription found at Herculaneum reveals that the Emperor Vespasian restored the temple of the Mater Peum
  • a life size statue of Aphrodite has been found
  • a Herculaneum painting shows tonsured, white robed priests of Isis performing their rituals, suggesting the practices of the cult of Isis which may have been as popular as it was in Pompeii.
The Worship of Isis from a Herculaneum fresco
The Worship of Isis from a Herculaneum fresco

This evidence suggests temples were located in Herculaneum, but must remain in the area that has not been excavated. It is believed by archaeologists that a temple to the god Hercules, the protector, must definitely exist in Herculaneum as his image is featured frequently in many households, paintings and street shrines as well as the statues that have been found of/dedicated to him.

Other religious building in Herculaneum include:
The shrine of Augustales, indicating the active practice of the imperial cult.
The Sacred Area

Sacred Area

Plan of the Sacred Area

No 5: Sacello of Venus
No 6: Sacello of the Four Gods (Minerva, Mercury, Neptune and Vulcan)
(A sacello is an enclosure with an altar consecrated to a god.)

Most temples followed a basic structure of an enclosed rectangular space, which inside housed a cella (house of the gods) where the statue of the god was contained. The Temple was usually surrounded in part or in full by columns. The front of the temple usually opened onto a colonnade. The Temples in Pompeii were under the responsibility of the Aediles. The number of temples highlights the importance of religion in the lives of the Pompeian’s and the use of temples and religion in political and social fields.

Other Temples in Pompeii
The Temple of Apollo

go to the Temple of Apollo at Pompeii in Pictures / Soprintendenza
Temple of Apollo

Temple of Apollo

  • Excavated between 1816-1820
  • It is the most ancient sanctuary in Pompeii; its architectural decoration dates as far back at 575BC, however many modifications were made to the Temple, especially after the earthquake in 62AD
  • Built during the Samnite period (c.6th Century)
  • Located at VII, 7,32 in the Forum. The temple faces the north side of the basilica
  • Augustus adopted Apollo as his patron
  • The building shows architectural influences of both Italic and Greek designs; eg italic use of high podium with front entry stairs and Greek elements of colonnade around the cell.
  • It has a rectangular plan
  • The perimeter is surround by 48 columns
  • The colonnaded courtyard was made of tufa and stucco
  • At the far end of the temple wall scenes from the Iliad are depicted
  • The cella was raised on a podium and reached by stairs.
  • The floor of the cell is made of polychrome stone diamond shapes
  • Within the Temple was a Sacrificial altar; it is located at the central part of the temple and is surrounded by columns
  • Two statues were found near the altar; the statues of Apollo and Diana, both depicted as arches. Today the statues are located at the Naples Museum
  • Statues of Venus and Hermaphroditus were also found within the temple; they were located on the bases of the entrance portico. A marble bust of Mercury was also discovered.
  • Also within the Temple is the colonnade with sundial dating to the time of Augustus.
  • The Cult of Apollo is one of the oldest cults. The temple of Apollo was the principle shrine until 80BC
  • The worship of Apollo was particularly promoted during the reign of Augustus, as Apollo represented the values of peace and enlightenment which Augustus wanted to promote
  • The Apolline Games were held every year on the 5th of July

The Temple of Venus

Go to the Temple of Venus at Pompeii in Pictures / Soprintendenza
  • Located at VII, 1, 3. It was built at the western edge of the hill of Pompeii, overlooking the sea. It was believed Venus was born from the water and would protect sailors on their journeys. The Temple was built around 80BC to honour the goddess Venus. Venus became the patron of Pompeii when it came under Roman control.
  • The Temple of Venus was a place of worship for all classes of society.
  • The temple of Venus has been significantly pillaged due to its prominent position in Pompeii that made it clearly visible to looters.
  • Described as a “marble temple in the Corinthian order (it) was constructed in an enclosure, with porticoes on three sides”

The Temple of Fortuna Augustus

Go to the Temple of Fortuna Augusta at Pompeii in Pictures / Soprintendenza / Rene Seindal

Temple of Fortuna Augusta

  • Excavated in 1824
  • Located at VII, 4,1
  • Dedicated to the worship of the Fortuna Redux; the name Augustus was added during imperial rule
  • Fortuna had been a goddess of fertility and good luck and was combined with Augusta, the guardian of the divine Augustus, to link the popular goddess with the imperial regime.
  • Built in the 1st century BC under to the instruction and financial backing of politician duumvir Marcus Tullius; in honour of the Emperor; thus also a place for worship of the Imperial cult
  • The cella was preceded by four columns in front and two on either side. Located in the cella were many statues; such as one in honour of the Emperor Augustus and the statue of Fortuna Augusta, which stood on a pedestal at the back of the sanctuary
  • This building reveals the link between religion and politics.