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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus

The Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus

Design of the temple in its prime
Current Condition
   This temple once was the heart of Roman culture.  Built to lie prominent in the center of Rome, the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus once sat high on the Capitoline hill, said to be the "head" of the entire empire.  While this temple was obviously dedicated to the god, Jupiter, "the best and greatest", as the Latin tells us, this temple also celebrates the god's closest companions, his wife Juno and Minerva, his daughter who was born out of his head.  This "triad" was highly revered, and as a growing city, it was mandatory that they appease the most important gods.
       The structure is said by tradition to have been begun by Tarquinius Priscus.  When fighting against the Sabines and all was lost, he vowed that if Jupiter would save him, he would construct a temple in his honor.  However, so says tradition, the temple was ultimately completed by Tarquinius Superbus, his son and the last king of Rome.  Since it is believed that Superbus reigned from 535-510 BCE, one can estimate the approximate time for the construction of this primitive masterpiece. Jupiter Optimus Maximus was constructed from cappellaccio, or a grey tufa (pronounced toofah) rock. This material was famous in it's time as "a very primitive type of limestone containing a poor quality, typically soft and friable, quarried from the hills of Rome used heavily for the great projects of the huge networks of caverns that were mined under the Capitoline, Palatine, and Quirinal hills" (Claridge 37).   Unfortunately, this structure has taken a great deal of damage throughout the centuries and wasn't incredibly stable in the first place, through the use of such weak materials.  Ultimately reconstructed by Emperor Domitian, the temple now lies deep within a museum, still visible to the Roman public in the Conservator's Palace on the Capitoline HIll. 

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