from the Temple of Jove Anxur
Perched on top of Monte Sant’Angelo, the 227 m high temple of Jove Anxur offers some of the best views of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Riviera of Ulysses.
The Temple of Jove Anxur can be seen from a long way away. Everywhere you look over the flat Pontine Marshes; these arched walls dating back to the fourth century BC stand out like a beacon surrounded by romance and mystery in equal measure. A must visit for centuries of travelers along Via Appia.
You can walk from Terracina to the temple in less than an hour, if you bring plenty of water and sunscreen. It’s a beautiful hike among rustling olive trees and fragrant rosemary bushes with magnificent views along the way. Or you can take the winding main road towards the town cemetery.
The purpose of old stones
On top there is a visitors centre and a few signs explaining the presumed purpose of the rubble that has been cut, carved, stacked and scattered over this hill top two thousand years’ ago. Several gods were worshipped here including Jupiter as a child, Juno, Minerva, Pheronia and Venus. There have been proper temples along with defensive walls and nine round towers seeking to guard the Appian Way and the sea.
Admittedly it takes a bit of imagination to envisage this proud religious and military structure on the basis of the present day ruins. Apart from a dark ambulatory there are no signs of the squad of 80 soldiers who kept vigilance on the mountain using a system of passwords that changed on a daily basis. All that is left of the great temples are a few broken columns and founding stones. And the Oracle that gave answers to the questions of the faithful by means of a hollow stone connected to priests in a cave looks like just another free standing rock.
3 good reasons to visit
But still there are three good reasons to visit the Temple of Jove Anxur.
One is the outstanding, early use of engineering science. An ingenious rainwater recirculation system with 13 interconnected cisterns provided fresh water to soldiers and priests stationed on the mountain. Terraced buildings have been constructed. And the Temple of Jove Anxur presents one of the first uses of cement made up by mortar and small stones to join the blocks of limestone or tuff and create a strong, even surface.
The second good reason to head for the summit is the fascinating and well preserved outer corridor with its repeating pattern of arched doorways.
And finally there is the view. From the Temple of Jove Anxur you can see Terracina spread out like a toy city. And there is Mount Circeo as a rugged silhouette in spectacular sunsets with Sperlonga and Gaeta at the other end of the bay. Even on a hazy day the views from the Temple of Jove Anxur are divine, and it is amazing to think that the ancient Romans shared more or less the same panorama of sea, mountains and a spectacular coastline as we see today.