The Temple of Jupiter Anxur – The greatness of ancient Terracina

The temple of Jupiter Anxur has watched over two millennia of the town that lies softly on the sea. It has celebrated the victory of Silla and witnessed the cutting of Pisco Montano, it has observed the reclamation of the Pontine Marshes and today it tolerates, a little strange, the night lighting that changes colour at its mighty arches.

Although it is not the Temple of Jupiter at all and although very little of the ancient splendour of the Sillana era remains, climbing up to the Temple along the winding road of Mount Jupiter is a sort of tiny pilgrimage that is worth making and at the end of which you can enjoy a priceless view of the sea of Circe.

Temple of Jupiter Anxur where is located

The temple of Jupiter Anxur is located in today’s Terracina in the Lazio region about 100 kilometres from both Rome and Naples.

The Temple of Jupiter Terracina (of Feronia and Venus)

The high mountain that closes and watches over the city in southern Italy is officially called Monte Sant’Angelo, but there are very few people in the area who use this term: the mountain, traditionally, is Monte Giove. In turn, the archaeological area at its summit, which includes a number of ancient and medieval structures, is indicated with the affectionate name of Tempio.

Terracina
Terracina

Just like the Mount, according to tradition the Temple was dedicated to Jupiter Anxur, that is to say to Jupiter Child (more literally, Jupiter Imberbe). Anxur was also the name of the ancient settlement founded by the Volscians and which, only in 312 B.C. became a Roman colony with the name of Terracina.

Since the oldest origins of the city, the Monte has hosted a place of worship. It is not difficult to imagine why: on clear days (which in these parts follow one another without interruption for most of the year) an immense portion of sea and land is dominated from the top of Monte Giove and it seems – literally – to be a few steps from the sky.

Temple of Jupiter Anxur
Temple of Jupiter Anxur

The swindle of the Oracle of Monte Giove

When the city was young, a small temple was built, a structure oriented according to the North-East – South West axis that looked at the acropolis of the city. This temple, erected in the second century before Christ, was dedicated to the deity Feronia, ancient goddess of the harvest, of the abundance of crops, of fertility (of the earth, of animals and human beings). At that time the city had an exclusively agricultural vocation, so it is clear why the patron deity was a goddess of fertility.

Feronia also had a “telluric quality”, as academics say, as the goddess of the underworld. For this reason next to the small temple stood an oracular rock to which the citizens turned to by bringing small offerings. Today we know that the Oracle of Mount Jupiter was nothing more than a well-thought-out deception: the oracular stone was crossed by a conduit specifically dug for the purpose and which still today flows into a natural cavern which can be seen from the cryptoporticus at the base of the Temple. The wind, rising from the cavern along the tunnel, made the stone “emit” sounds and “oracles”.

The Sillana era and the temple of Venus

About a century after the construction of the small temple, in Rome Silla won the war against Mario. To celebrate his rise to power, Sulla ordered the construction of a huge temple to Venus Obsequens at the military fort that had been built to guard a fundamental pass of the Via Appia. The Regina Viarum, in fact, originally reached the top of Monte Giove and then passed over it.

The Temple of Jupiter, therefore, was not the Temple of Jupiter at all: the discovery of ancient inscriptions as well as small glass artefacts in the form of a dove confirm the dedication of the Temple to Venus Obsequens, that is “Venus Favorable”, who was a sort of Victory deity.

Despite the fact that the attribution to Venus is now certain, the Temple of Jupiter has never changed its name in common use: the Terracinese are not exactly inclined to change their secular habits.

Visit the Temple of Jupiter Anxur in Terracina

Seen from the port of the city, the Temple today consists of a series of twelve round arches that form a powerful and unmistakable wall. However, if you take a brief look (or watch the screening of the introductory film of the visit to the archaeological site) you will discover that the very high arches visible from the city’s beaches are nothing more than the base of an enormous structure of which unfortunately very little remains today.

Despite this, the long galleries of arches that cross and support the terrace of the great temple are still perfectly intact and offer surprising perspectives.  In the corridor that runs inside the base, the light penetrates through an open gap in the back wall. The irregular opening frames a beautiful and suggestive view of the hills.

Temple Jupiter Anxur Terracina ©photo Olga
Temple Jupiter Anxur Terracina

The small temple of Feronia

The small temple has a structure not too dissimilar from the main temple and also in this case the most interesting part are the nine vaulted rooms that communicate with each other through internal passages and open outwards with other large arches. Inside the small temple traces of frescoes in the early Pompeian style have been found and in a corridor medieval frescoes representing the Madonna and Child, the Archangels Michael and Gabriel. The latter frescoes date back to the time when the community of the Monks of St. Michael the Archangel settled in the ancient Roman temple, from which, later on, the Mount took its present name.

The sea, the land, music

The terrace of the main temple is the highest vantage point in the city and offers a breathtaking view of the entire surrounding landscape. The sea horizon is interrupted on the clearest days by the profile of three of the Pontine Islands: Ponza, Palmarola and Ventotene. On the opposite side it is possible to admire the extension of the city up to the wooded and densely cultivated hills in the hinterland.

A curiosity: if you happen to be on the Temple while a club on the sea entertains its patrons with music, you will notice. The particular conformation of the territory in fact ensures an amazing acoustics: the sounds go up towards the Temple and down towards the city in an uninterrupted flow.

On a windy day, however, the Temple is the perfect place to let your thoughts run away, find lost inspiration and abandon some obsessions.

Temple of Jupiter Terracina
Temple of Jupiter Terracina

Timetables of the Temple of Jupiter Anxur

The archaeological site is open every day from 9.00 to 23.00.

It is possible to organize guided tours by calling for info and reservations at 06-39967950. The number is active from Monday to Friday from 9.00 to 13.00 and from 14.00 to 17.00. On Saturdays from 9.00 to 14.00.

The ticket costs 6 Euro for adults, with a reduction for children. For a guided tour 5 Euro per person must be added to the ticket price.

Initiatives are often organized that combine the archaeological route with aperitifs and apericena served to tourists in the small bar on the terrace.

Accessibility

Unfortunately the Temple is accessible only by walking up a rather steep slope that connects the small car park to the archaeological site itself. There is no safe route for the disabled and, therefore, a visit to the site is not recommended for the motor disabled.

(Visitato 515 volte. Solo oggi ci sono state 1 visite a questo articolo)

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