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Ancient Roman Cult Temple - Capitoline Hill

Archaeologists uncover ancient Roman cult temple

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Archaeologists excavating a site in central Rome have uncovered what may be the oldest known Roman temple .  The finding was made at Sant’Omobono, one of the most remarkable and least understood archaeological sites in Rome.

An international team of researchers have been carrying out excavations at the Sant’Omobono site, which lies at the foot of Capitoline Hill, for a number of years. Previous work has uncovered multiple layers comprising Middle and Late Bronze Age materials dating back to the 7 th century BC, and substantial evidence of continuous cult activity beginning in the late seventh and early sixth centuries BC. According to the project website , the site offers “both an important glimpse at the earliest phases of occupation at Rome in the latter half of the second millennium and an unparalleled opportunity to study the development of a major cult area in relation to the processes of urbanization and state formation from the eighth to the sixth centuries”.

The Sant'Omobono excavation team dug a 15-foot reinforced hole below the water line to reach the ruins of the ancient temple. Within the ruins they found large numbers of votive offerings such as miniature versions of drinking vessels left by foreign traders.

Today, the Tiber River is about a hundred yards away. But when the city was being created, around the 7th century BC, it flowed close to where the Sant’Omobono church now stands, where a bend in the river provided a natural harbour for merchant ships.

The temple, which archaeologists believe was dedicated to the goddess Fortuna, would have been one of the first things that traders would have seen when they pulled into the harbour of Rome. According to Nic Terrenato, co-director of the Sant'Omobono excavation project, temples were positioned in this way in order to foster mutual trust between locals and traders.  "It's like a free trade zone and the goddess is supposed to guarantee the fairness of the trade," said Terrenato.

Fortuna is the Roman Goddess of luck, fate and fortune, as her name implies.  She was a very popular Goddess, and was worshipped under many epithets depending on the type of luck one wished to invoke or the circumstances in play.  She was honoured as a personal Goddess, overseeing the fate of the individual mother, young man, or soldier, to a Goddess of the State, ensuring the fortune of the populace, the luck of the Emperor, or the glorious fate of the entire Roman Empire.

By April Holloway

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