The Temple of Jupiter in Pompeii is one of the must see antiquities on a visit to this extraordinary site in the Bay of Naples.
The ancient city of Pompeii was destroyed in August of 79 AD with the eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius. It was a small, ordinary Roman town that at the time of it’s destruction was was located directly on the Bay of Naples. The rediscovery of the site in the 16th century, and many years of excavation, have given us a very detailed window into daily life in a 1st-century Roman city.
The Forum, where the temple of Jupiter is located, is now a large open space. This was once at the juncture of two important routes that linked Pompeii to the cities of Naples, Nola, and Stabiae. Once a small, busy market at the center of town, as Pompeii expanded the forum ended up on the edges of the city.
Roman temples were built to house statues of the god or goddess to which they were dedicated. The English word “temple” derives from Latin word templum, which originally was not the building itself, but a sacred space that was ritually chosen by priests. These spaces were only entered by priests who performed the necessary rituals. The public worshiped in the open space near the temples. It was very important to the Romans that the rituals, often animal sacrifice, be performed correctly. The way to know that this was done was through divination, examining the organs of the sacrificial animals and following birds flight patterns in the sky.
The citizens of Pompeii worshipped many gods, primarily Greco-Roman deities such as Juno (Hera), Minerva (Athena), Apollo, and Jupiter (the Greek Zeus). The Temple of Jupiter was built in the second century AD at the north end of the Forum.
Jupiter was the ruler of the gods and the protector of Rome. The temple that is now in Pompeii was originally located in what is now Tunisia and brought to it’s current place in mid-2nd century BC. The temple of Jupiter became Pompeii’s main temple. The interior of the temple contained a small chamber, known as a cella, which held the statues of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva. This collection of three gods is known as the Capitoline Triad.
In the year 62 AD an earthquake struck Pompeii and destroyed much of Temple of Jupiter. The religious site was awaiting reconstruction when Vesuvius erupted covering the city in it’s ash. Now in modern times, Pompeii is a UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Italy, with approximately 2.5 million visitors every year.