Temple of Portunus


120-80 BCE

10.5 x 19 meters

The Temple of Portunus (Italian: Tempio di Portuno) or Temple of Fortuna Virilis (“manly fortune”) is a Roman temple in Rome, one of the best preserved of all Roman temples. Its dedication remains unclear, as ancient sources mention several temples in this area of Rome, without saying enough to make it clear which this is. It was called the Temple of Fortuna Virilis from the Renaissance, and remains better known by this name. If dedicated to Portunus, god of keys, doors and livestock, and so granaries, it is the main temple dedicated to the god in the city. It is in the Ionic order and located by the ancient Forum Boarium by the Tiber, during Antiquity the site overlooked the Port Tiberinus at a sharp bend in the river; from here, Portunus watched over cattle-barges as they entered the city from Ostia.

The temple was originally built in the third or fourth century BCE but was rebuilt between 120-80 BCE, the rectangular building consists of a tetrastyle portico and cella, raised on a high podium reached by a flight of steps, which it retains. Like the Maison Carrée in Nîmes, it has a pronaos portico of four Ionic columns across and two columns deep. The columns of the portico are free-standing, while the remaining five columns on the long sides and the four columns at the rear are half-columns engaged along the walls of the cella. This form is sometimes called pseudoperipteral, as distinct from a true peripteral temple like the Parthenon entirely surrounded by free-standing columns. The Ionic capitals are of the original form, different in the frontal and side views, except in the volutes at the corners, which project at 45°, a common Roman detail. It is built of tuff and travertine with a stucco surface.

The Roman Temple of Portunus, Rome, Italy, 1st century B.C.E.

The year 221 B.C.E. was a turning point both for Rome and for Roman art. Breaking with precedent, Marcellus, conqueror of the fabulously wealthy Sicilian Greek city of Syracuse, brought back to Rome not only the usual spoils of war -captured arms and armor, gold and silver coins, and the like- but also the city’s artistic patrimony. Thus began, in the words of the historian Livy, “the craze for works of Greek art.” […] Nevertheless, although the Romans developed a virtually insatiable taste for Greek “antiques,” the Etruscan basis of Roman art and architecture was never forgotten. The buildings and statues of the Roman Republic are highly eclectic, drawing on both Greek and Etruscan traditions.

Eclecticism is the primary characteristic of the Republican temple on the east bank of the Tiber popularly known as the Temple of the Fortuna Virilis. It is actually a temple dedicated to Portunus, the Roman god of harbors. Its plan follows the Etruscan pattern with a high podium and a flight of steps only at the front. Freestanding columns are confined to the deep porch. But the structure is built of stone (local tufa and travertine), overlaid originally with stucco in imitation of Greek marble.

The columns are not Tuscan but Ionic, complete with flutes and bases, and there is a matching Ionic freeze. Moreover, in an effort to approximate a peripteral Greek temple yet maintain the basic Etruscan plan, the architect added a series of engaged Ionic half columns to the sides and back of the cella. The result was a pseudoperipteral temple. Although the design combines Etruscan and Greek elements, the resultant mix is uniquely Roman.

-Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, Enhanced Edition, Volume I.

Photo courtesy & taken by Darkroom Daze.

Roman Republican Architecture 509-27 BCE

Imagine classical Greek architecture and Etruscan architecture had a baby- the Temple of Portunus. Built in 75 BCE in Rome, this temple is half Greek and half Etruscan. The plan is Etruscan; the only entrance into the temple is the front entrance. Although the columns are Ionic, the freestanding columns are placed on the porch. There are engaged Ionic columns on the sides and in the back, in an attempt to imitate a peripteral Greek temple. Another factor of imitation is the material of the temple. The temple is stone, but it was overlaid with stucco to emulate white marble Greek temples. This mixture of Etruscan tradition and Greek imitation defines Roman Republican Architecture. 

The Temple of Vesta, constructed in the early first century BCE in Tivoli, is a sibling of the Temple of Portunus. The Temple of Vesta was inspired by the Greek tholos temples; the front of the temple is circular, with the Corinthian columns on the porch. However, unlike the Greek tholos, the stairs are placed only in the front. The most significant aspect of the Temple of Vesta is its medium: concrete. 


(from Annabeth to Percy)

The arch of your smile is curved so nicely.
I like the degree of it;
The camber.
The moulding of your jaw is exquisite and so
Are your limbs,
Articulated just so,
In a fusion of function and fluidity.
On your façade, two bays of bright green
Open to let the light in.
Above them, the pediment of your brows;
Below, your nose in bold relief.
Your body is a peripteral, a temple
Built in the Doric order,
And I will worship in it;
I will worship the beauty of your architecture.


Temple of Zeus


~457 BCE

20.7 m in height, 29 m in breadth, 70.1 m in length

The temple was of peripteral form, with a frontal pronaos (porch), mirrored by a similar arrangement at the back of the building, the opisthodomos. The building sat on a crepidoma (platform) of three unequal steps, the exterior columns were positioned in a six by thirteen arrangement, two rows of seven columns divided the cella (interior) into three aisles. Although it lies in ruins today, an echo of the temple’s original appearance can be seen in the Second Temple of Hera at Paestum, which closely followed its form. The temple featured carved metopes and triglyph friezes, topped by pediments filled with sculptures in the Severe Style, now attributed to the “Olympia Master” and his studio. According to Pausanias, the temple’s height up to the pediment was 68 feet (20.7 m), its breadth was 95 feet (29.0 m), and its length 230 feet (70.1 m).[4] It was approached by a ramp on the east side. The main structure of the building was of a local limestone that was unattractive and of poor quality, and so it was coated with a thin layer of stucco to give it an appearance of marble to match the sculptural decoration. It was roofed with Pentelic marble cut into the shape of tiles. The marble was cut thinly enough to be translucent, so that on a summer’s day, “light comparable to a conventional 20-watt bulb would have shone through each of the 1,000 tiles.


Temple of Apollo

Delphi, greece

330 BCE

21.6m x 58.2m

The ruins of the Temple of Delphi visible today date from the 4th century BC, and are of a peripteral Doric building. It was erected on the remains of an earlier temple, dated to the 6th century BC which itself was erected on the site of a 7th-century BC construction attributed to the architects Trophonios and Agamedes. 

The 6th-century BC temple was named the “Temple of Alcmonidae” in tribute to the Athenian family who funded its reconstruction following a fire, which had destroyed the original structure. The new building was a Doric hexastyle temple of 6 by 15 columns. This temple was destroyed in 375 BC by an earthquake. The pediment sculptures are a tribute to Praxias and Androsthenes of Athens. Of a similar proportion to the second temple it retained the 6 by 15 column pattern around the stylobate. Inside was the adyton, the centre of the Delphic oracle and seat of Pythia. The temple had the statement “Know thyself”, one of the Delphic maxims, carved into it (and some modern Greek writers say the rest were carved into it), and the maxims were attributed to Apollo and given through the oracle and/or the Seven Sages of Greece (“know thyself” perhaps also being attributed to other famous philosophers). The temple survived until AD 390, when the Roman emperor Theodosius I silenced the oracle by destroying the temple and most of the statues and works of art in the name of Christianity. The site was completely destroyed by zealous Christians in an attempt to remove all traces of Paganism



Olympia, Greece

400 - 300 BCE

10.62 m x 20.67 m. 

Doric peripteral temple, 6 x 11 columns, with cella opening east onto a pronaos distyle in antis. It had a distyle in antis opisthodomos on the west. A colonnade of unknown order along the north and south cella walls.

Dedicated to the Mother of the Gods, sometimes called Cybele. The cult of the Mother of the Gods was displaced in Roman times by that of Augustus and Rome.


Ancient Corinth - Temple of Apollo by Alexander Pappas on Flickr. || Edit.

The most notable ruin of ancient Corinth built in the 6th-century BC. It is one of the oldest stone temples in Greece. It was built in a rocky hill dominating the city. It is a Doric peripteral temple with monolithic columns (6x15). Around it evolved the commercial, cultural and religious centre and activities of the city. The city of ancient Corinth grew up on the northern slopes of the hill of Akrokorinthos, which acted as the fortified citadel of the ancient and later the medieval cities. The site was occupied continuously from the Neolithic period to the Middle Ages. Ancient Corinth flourished as a major Greek city from the 8th century BC until its destruction by the Romans in 146 BC. Being a leading naval power as well as a rich commercial city enabled ancient Corinth to establish many colonies in Greece, like Corcyra (Korfou), and outside Greece the famous Syracuse on the island of Sicily. Beginning in 582 BC, in the spring of every second year the Isthmian Games were celebrated in honour of the sea god Poseidon. The Corinthians developed the Corinthian order, the third order of the classical architecture after the Ionic and the Doric. Corinth was one of the three major powers in Greece and took part in all the battles against the Persians. Corinth was partially destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC, but in 44 BC it was rebuilt as a Roman city under Julius Caesar. The Apostle Paul visited Corinth and spoke to the Corinthians in AD 52 and later wrote the famous Corinthian letters.