Wednesday, January 21, 2009

It used to be called a Temple of Vesta

When I was a university student in Rome in 1970-71, this round structure was identified as a Temple of Vesta. After centuries of being know by this name, because of a mistaken comparison with the circular Temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum, it is now correctly called the Temple of Hercules.

It was built in the 2nd century BC and is the earliest known marble temple in Rome. According to the legend of the twelve labors of Hercules, as he was passing through Rome on his return from stealing the cattle of Geryon, the monster Cacus made off with a few cattle and hid them in a nearby cave. Hercules located them and slue the monster Cacus. To celebrate his victory over Cacus he made a sacrifice of some of the bulls at or near this site. In the days of ancient Rome this area was named the Forum Boarum, the cattle and meat market. Note: Hercules was considered to be the protector of butchers and cattle dealers.

In front of the temple is an 18th century fountain inspired by Bernini's Triton Fountain (1642-43) in Piazza Barbarini.

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