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Temple of Hercules Olivarius


The temple is the oldest still existing marble building in Rome and dates back to 120 B.C.; is located in the ancient Forum Boarium area where there was the animal market and that already in the Archaic period was the emporica area where they had settled the Phoenician and Greek merchants bringing the cult of Hercules.
For its circular form was referred to as the Temple of Vesta until the XIX century, but from the recognition of a marble block that could be the base of a statue, it was confirmed that the temple was dedicated to Hercules Olivarius.
The construction of the temple is due to a rich merchant Marcus Octavius Herennius that he had become very rich with the oil business; the reason he built the temple is given by Macrobius in the Saturnalia: the merchant during one of its trips was attacked by pirates who was able to defeat after seeking the protection of Hercules. When he returned to Rome to thank God commissioned the architect Hermodorus of Salamis the construction of a temple dedicated to him and for which the statue (lost) seems to have been made by Scopas the young.
In the same area, Hercules was still revered even before the founding of Rome; In fact, not far away is - in the hypogeum of Santa Maria in Cosmedin - the Ara Maxima of Hercules that according to legend, was an altar constructed by the demigod when he passed through the valley between the Palatine and Aventine returning from Iberia.
During the Republican period they were built other temples in the same area; Appius Claudius censor it would build another in 312 BC dedicated to Hercules Victor and which should be located behind Santa Maria in Cosmedin in an area not yet excavated; in 142 BC one had built by Scipio Emilianus even .
This temple was located in the left side of the Santa Maria in Cosmedin, it was round and had eighteen Tuscan columns; of this temple you know the location and structure that still existed in the fifteenth century, later it was demolished to the foundations by Pope Sixtus IV.
From the destruction it was saved only a statue of Hercules in gilded bronze that Sixtus IV made to transport in the Palace of the Conservators and is now exhibited at the Capitoline Museums and known throughout the world such as Hercules of Foro Boario.
The temple you see today is in an area that was subject to periodic flooding of the Tiber and therefore already in ancient times suffered damage and had to be restored; the last restoration of which we know dates back to Tiberius probably after the flood of 15 A.D.
Like all the buildings that have been preserved intact even the Temple of Hercules was transformed into a church; in 1132 it was consecrated to St. Stephen of Carriages and later in the XVII century to Santa Maria del Sole for a picture of the Virgin found nearby.
Were the Frenchmen in 1809, which asked Valadier to restore the temple to its original splendor: Valadier freed the building leaving only the cell and 10 columns; was eliminated the perimeter wall, rebuilt the roof, placed a protective gate and also posed the simple prismatic shapes instead of 3 missing capitals. The architect wanted to reconstruct the missing column but for the limited funds available it was impossible.
In 1996 it was made a restoration that involved a capital (already restored by Valadier) that has been totally redone as it was necessary to redo the roof ...



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by M.L. ©ALL RIGHTS RESERVED (Ed 1.0 - 29/07/2016)