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Juppiter Heliopolitanus

 p294  Article on pp294‑296 of

Samuel Ball Platner (as completed and revised by Thomas Ashby):
A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome,
London: Oxford University Press, 1929.

Iuppiter Heliopolitanus, templum. This sanctuary was erected on the Janiculum, on the site of the Lucus Furrinae (q.v.), probably in the latter half of the first century A.D. Scanty traces of it have been found. More considerable remains of an edifice erected in 176 A.D. were also discovered, but only about one quarter of it has been cleared. It consisted, like the first, of an open square temenos, oriented on the points of the compass, and divided into four equal compartments by two transverse lines of amphorae; the enclosure wall of the temenos was also formed, in part, of rows of amphorae which had, as it appears, some unknown ritual significance. Two small rooms (one with arrangements for ritual washing) were also found. Below was a large fish-pond. Interesting objects were found in a boundary ditch, which soon served as a favissa. The date is given by the inscriptions. Besides the two  p295 cited s.v. Lucus Furrinae, there is another altar (of uncertain provenance) dedicated to Iuppiter Heliopolitanus and the Emperor Commodus on 29th November, 186 A.D., by one M. Antonius Gaionas, who is called Cistiber Augustorum (?), i.e. quinque vir cis Tiberim (CIL VI.420 = 30764; cf. Mitt. 1907, 244). He also erected an altar found at Porto (CIL XIV.24) I.O.M. Angelo Heliopolitano pro salute Imperatorum Antonini et Commodi.

This Gaionas was already known from his sepulchral inscription (IG xiv.1512; CIL VI.32316), where he is mentioned as κίστιβερ and as δείπνοις κρείνας πολλὰ μετ’ εὐφροσύνης.

A slab (mensa) with a dedication to Iuppiter Heliopolitanus pro salute et reditu, et Victoria of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus (176 A.D., contemporary with the Antonine column and recording the same victories) erected by the same Gaionas, was found used as building material in the fourth century temple, as well as another undated dedication.

And, agreeably to this, one of the recently discovered inscriptions speaks of him as δειπνοκρίτης; see Cumont in CRA 1917, 275‑284, who interprets the difficult text δεσμὸς ὅπως κρατερὸς θῦμα θεοῖς παρέχοι, ὂν δὴ Γαιωνᾶς δειπνοκρίτης ἔθετο, which is carved on a marble slab (with a hole in the centre communicating with a cavity which extends behind the whole slab), by supposing that the slab was placed vertically at the end of a basin, which contained fish to be consumed at the sacred banquets at which he was a steward. Gauckler had indeed already supposed the existence of a large fish-pond below the sanctuary even before the time of Gaionas. The presence of a fine statue of Bacchus and a fragment of a statuette is explained by Cumont to presume the use of wine to the point of intoxication at the sacred banquets (op. cit. 281). A dedication to Iuppiter Maleciabruditanus (i.e. the protecting deity of the city of Jabruda in the Antilebanon) also came to light. Hülsen, on the other hand, points out that, had the slab stood vertically for a considerable period, the calcareous deposit would have been heavier on the lower half of the slab, instead of being, as it is, equally distributed: and he therefore still explains it as the top of a treasure chest, with a hole for offerings, supposing that it was used in a water tank after the destruction of the sanctuary.

It would appear that the edifice of Gaionas was destroyed in or about 341, in consequence of the edicts of Constans and Constantius II, and that a building consisting of porticos surrounding a fountain was erected on its site. The most recent temple was thus, no doubt, erected in the time of Julian the Apostate. The rectangular portico became the court in the centre of the new temple. (For the plan of the three superposed temples, see Gauckler, Sanctuaire Syrien, pls. XXXV, L, LI; CRA 1909, 617, pl. I; 1910, 378, pls. III).

On the east of it a smaller octagonal enclosure was built, in the centre of which was a triangular mass of masonry — an altar which contained  p296 a bronze statuette of a male deity, possibly Chronos, enveloped by a serpent and surrounded by seven hen's eggs. On either side of the enclosure were two smaller chapels.

At the west end of the court was a sanctuary with a plan like that of a basilica — narthex, nave and two aisles. In the apse was the statue of Iuppiter Heliopolitanus, and in the cavity beneath, the upper part of a human cranium, the relic of a dedicatory sacrifice. It has further been noticed by Gauckler that the head of the statue of Bacchus and two other heads had been 'segmented', i.e. sliced at the crown; but whether this had any ritualistic significance, as Gauckler believed, is doubted by Crawford (Mem. Amer. Acad. I.103‑119). Several tombs were also found in the sanctuary, which may have been those of individuals who had been sacrificed.

The objects found have been removed to the Museo delle Terme (PT 120‑122), but no further work has been undertaken by the Italian Government.

See Gauckler in CRA 1907, 135‑139; 1908, 510‑529; 1909, 424‑435, 617‑647; 1910, 378‑408; BC 1907, 45‑81; Mél. 1908, 283‑336; 1909, 242‑268; Nicole and Darier, ib. 1909, 1‑86 (all these are reprinted in Gauckler, Le Sanctuaire Syrien au Janicule, Paris 1912); Hülsen, Mitt. 1907, 225‑254; Geogr. Jahrb. 1911, 215‑217; Cumont in CRA 1917, 275‑284; Lanciani, Wanderings in the Roman Campagna, 170‑179. A complete bibliography is given by Darier, Les Fouilles du Janicule à Rome, Genève, 1920.

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Page updated: 18 Jun 09