A Roman temple sits on a hill above the old city, on what would have been the eastern edge of Cordoba in Roman times. From there it would have been easily visible for miles around, and a striking symbol of imperial power. The temple’s construction was begun in approximately 41 AD and completed in 81 AD, taking 40 years to build.
Orange trees grow in the cracks between the stones of these 2000-year-old ruins. We visited in the evening and several cats were hanging around. They are strays and people put out food and water for them here in the grounds of the temple.
All that survives of the temple today are some of the upright columns, the foundations, altar and stairs.
The massive scale of the foundations shows how grand the temple might have been. Archeological excavations have shown that the temple was built mostly from marble, and was the work of expert craftsmen. It would have been finished to the level of the finest buildings of that period.
The Roman city of Cordoba was the largest city in the Iberian peninsula, and enjoyed a high status in the Republic. The great Roman statesman, philosopher and dramatist Seneca was born in Cordoba. Captured by Rome in 206 BC, the settlement of Cordoba and the surrounding Guadalquivir valley were under Roman rule for 760 years. During the early period, streets were laid and buildings constructed, and a walled city was established for Roman citizens and select local people to live in. Initially prosperous during Julius Caesar’s rule, Cordoba fell out of favour for siding with his rival Pompey, and when Caesar reclaimed the city it was in a punishing attack where 20,000 citizens died. The subsequent emperors Augustus and Claudius relieved Cordoba’s troubles by rewarding accomplished veteran soldiers with land there. This rejuvenated the city, and it is thought that the temple was built to honour this change of fortune. Roman temples were part of the imperial cult, where the emperor was worshipped as a living deity. There may have been other temples in Roman Cordoba, but this was the most important one.