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The Temple of Hercules

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The Temple of Hercules, its towering columns visible from Downtown, was built in the same period as the Roman Theatre below. The temple stands on a platform at the head of the monumental staircase which formerly led up from the lower city: the blocks on the cliff edge mark the position of the staircase, and afford a tremendous panoramic view over the city centre that is particularly striking at sunset, when – in addition to the visual dramatics – the dozens of mosques in the city all around start broadcasting the call to prayer almost simultaneously.

The temple’s columns, which were re-erected in 1993, formed part of a colonnaded entrance to the cella, or inner sanctum. Within the cella a patch of bare rock is exposed, which, it’s thought, may have been the sacred rock that formed the centrepiece of the ninth-century BC Ammonite Temple of Milcom on this spot. The Roman dedication to Hercules is not entirely certain but, given the quantity of coins bearing his likeness found in the city below, pretty likely. Look out for the giant marble hand displayed nearby, part of an immense statue also thought to be of Hercules.

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