The Temple of Jupiter Anxur looms over the seaside city of Terracina in Italy's Lazio region. This temple, built during the first century B. C., is dedicated to the god Jupiter as a boy and a young man (hence the "Anxur" in the title). Terracina was called Tarracina by the ancient Romans and Anxur by the Volscians, according to Pliny the Elder, who wrote about the region in his Natural History. Ancient records indicate that there was also a small temple of Venus nearby.
When the Via Appia was built between Rome and Capua in 312 B. C., it ran right up the steep slope of this mountain. Visitors to Terracina complained about the traffic on the road. By 184 B. C., the ancient Romans were attempting to reroute the Via Appia around the base of the mountain, but it was not until the early second century A. D. that they succeeded in creating a true bypass next to the sea. Today's modern highway, S. S. 7, follows that seaside route.
When the Romans built the Temple of Jupiter Anxur, they included a boundary wall and towers that could serve as military fortifications. As the temple stood above the Via Appia, the main road between Rome and Capua, this was good military strategy.
The temple complex was devastated by a fire some time after 400 A. D., although the exact year the fire occurred is not known.
Terracina and San Felice Circeo From the Temple of Jupiter Anxur
Many people hike or drive to the Temple of Jupiter Anxur for the beautiful views of the Gulf of Gaeta and San Felice Circeo. Looking straight down from the Temple, you will see Terracina's harbor and main square. To the north, you will see the promontory at San Felice Circeo (the distant point in the center of this photograph), supposedly the place where the legendary Greek hero Odysseus met Circe the enchantress, who had turned his ship's crew into pigs.
You can walk up to the temple from Terracina, although the road is very steep. Simply follow the signs to Tempio di Giove Anxur and head uphill.
You can also get to the temple complex by car by following the same signs. From the Piazza del Municipio, exit onto Via Santissima Annunziata, take the left fork onto Via San Francesco Vecchio, make a sharp left onto Via San Francesco Nuovo (watch for oncoming cars!), bear right on Via Anxur, merge onto Strada Panoramica and keep right at the fork, staying on Strada Panoramica until you reach the temple. Parking is available at the top of the hill near the entrance to the temple complex.
If you park in the temple complex parking lot, take the same precautions you would anywhere else in Italy. Lock valuables in your trunk or carry them with you. Keep the interior of your car completely clean; do not leave any items in view, not even a pencil. Lock your car.
View of Wall and Pathway at the Temple of Jupiter Anxur
After you buy your entrance ticket, take the path toward the temple complex at the top of the hill. If you continue straight ahead, you will find a small bar (with restroom), where you can purchase snacks, coffee and other beverages. If you follow the marked itinerary, you will turn to the right and move toward the main temple complex. There are a few signs (some in good condition, others not) that provide information in Italian about the temple. The pathways are either gravel or dirt, and in some places there are steps made of wood or stone.
Climb up to the viewing platform and explore the corridors under the temple's main floor. There are many places on and next to the main temple building with great views of the Gulf of Gaeta.
During the Middle Ages, the Benedictines built a monastery on the mountain, which Christians had dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel. This monastery, in turn, was abandoned during the second half of the 16th century, and the Temple of Jupiter Anxur was forgotten.
In 1894, a treasure hunter discovered part of the temple complex. The city of Terracina paid a team of archaeologists to excavate the site. The team found the temple's substructure, the arched "building" that you can see from downtown Terracina and the Via Appia and artifacts from the Temple of Jupiter Anxur and the chapel dedicated to the goddess Venus.
Arched Doorways in the Temple of Jupiter Anxur
Almost everyone who visits the Temple of Jupiter Anxur photographs these arches. They are actually very short corridors or doorways that connect a series of small rooms on the ground floor of the temple. You can begin at one end and walk through them all (watch your head!) or walk around the outside of the temple to see them from each side.
These arches are a tribute to the workmanship of the Temple of Jupiter Anxur. The ancient Romans were extremely talented engineers, and you can find many examples of their work throughout Italy. In the city of Terracina, for example, you can view an ancient Roman arch and see Roman-built columns inside the cathedral, which was built around an ancient temple. You can also see part of the original Via Appia Antica (the ancient Appian Way) underneath the Roman arch.
If You Go:
Piazzale Loffredo (at the end of Strada Panoramica), Terracina (LT), Italy 04019
Telephone: +39 348 8185541
Open 9:00 a. m. to midnight, July through September.
Open 9:00 to sunset, October 1 through June 30.
Tickets are 7 Euros for adults and 4 Euros for students ages 6 to 18 and visitors over age 65. Children under six enter free of charge.
A variety of guided tours are available, depending on the season. Contact the ticket office for information.
Check with the ticket office for the schedule of summer illuminations. You will need to buy a separate ticket to attend the illuminations.