About Temple of Ercole Vincitore
The Temple of Ercole Vincitore is a circular structure with twenty Corinthian columns atop a podium of marble steps. Dating from the late second century BC, it is the oldest preserved marble monument in Rome. It can be found in the Forum Boarium.
It is believed that the Temple of Ercole Vincitore was restored under Flavius in around 15 AD. The fresco of the Madonna with Child inside is a remnant of its time as a church.
History of Temple of Ercole Vincitore
The temple, named ‘The Temple of Hercules the Victor’, is located in Piazza Bocca della Verita, in the area of the Forum Boarium close to the Tiber in Rome, Italy. The temple’s original dedication dates back to circa 143-132 BC, which was when intense construction was taking place in Portus Tiberinus.
It was likely erected by L. Mummius Achaicus, conqueror of the Achaeans and destroyer of Corinth, and is a tholos – a round temple of Greek ‘peripteral’ design completely encircled by a colonnade. This layout actually caused it to be misidentified for a temple of Vesta (the Roman goddess of home and the hearth) until it was correctly identified by Napoleon’s Prefect of Rome.
The temple has evolved due to a number of environmental and religious factors. For instance, in the 1st century CE, the temple was hit with some sort of disaster, as 10 columns were replaced with Luna marble.
By 1132, the temple had been converted into a church, known as Santo Stefano alle Carozze (St. Stephen of the Carriages). In 1140, Pope Innocent III converted it into a Christian church and dedicated it to Stan Stefano.
In the 12th century, the cella wall was replaced with brick faced concrete and windows were added. Restorations which included a fresco over the altar were made in 1475, with a plaque in the floor being dedicated by Sixtus IV.
In the 17th century, the church was rededicated to Santa Maria del Sole – St. Mary of the Sun – and with the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, became the inspiration for other Renaissance churches.
In 1809 and 10, the temple was restored again. It was officially recognised as an ancient monument in 1935, and restored in 1996.
Temple of Ercole Vincitore Today
Today, it remains unsolved as to who the temple was dedicated to and for what purpose. However, visitors can admire it from the outside – it is fenced off – while drinking in the rest of the history of the famous Forum Boarium.
The Forum Boarium was a cattle market, and it is perhaps due to its function that today there is still a belief that neither flies nor dogs will enter it.
Getting to Temple of Ercole Vincitore
The temple is a half an hour walk from the centre of Roma, along via Nazionale. It is also reachable in around 15 minutes by bus, with the 170 and H amongst others departing regularly from the city centre. By car, the temple takes under 10 minutes by Via del Teatro di Marcello.