Places of Worship (Self Guided), Pompei

The true age of Pompei can be determined through the temples and places of worship found there. They provide us the clearest picture of the cultural life of Pompei citizens. Take this tour and discover the remnants of places of worship of the various cults practiced in the ancient city that laid buried in ash and clinker from the Vesuvius eruption since 79 AD.
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Places of Worship Map

Guide Name: Places of Worship
Guide Location: Italy » Pompei (See other walking tours in Pompei)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.2 Km or 0.7 Miles
Author: Ella
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Temple of Asclepius
  • Temple of Isis
  • Doric Temple
  • Street Painted Altar
  • Temple of Jupiter
  • Triumphal Arch of Tiberius
  • Temple of Fortuna Augusto
  • Temple of Apollo
  • Basilica
  • Temple of Venus
Temple of Asclepius

1) Temple of Asclepius

The Temple of Asclepius is situated on the corner of Vio del Tempio di Iside and the Via Stabiana. It dates from around the 2nd century BC, and is believed to have been a place of worship for Asclepius, the Greek and Roman God of Medicine. There has been some dispute over which god was worshipped at the temple. It has also been referred to as the Temple of Jupiter, the king of the gods. The debate centres around the discovery of a statue within the temple. Initially thought to represent Jupiter, it is now believed to be a depiction of Asclepius.

The temple is narrow, with a portico located directly in front of the entrance. The courtyard behind it features a tufa altar, decorated with cushion scrolls and a mixture of Doric and Ionic decoration. A flight of steps beyond the altar leads up to a columned podium. At the back of the temple, a walled off area known as a cella contains a pedestal for the display of religious statues. It was here that the statue of Asclepius was first found. Asclepius is the God of healing and medicine in Ancient Greek mythology. His staff, often depicted with a snake entwined around it, is a modern symbol for medicine across the world.
Temple of Isis

2) Temple of Isis (must see)

The Temple of Isis is a small Roman temple, though unusually, it is a place of worship for an Egyptian goddess. Isis was worshipped in Ancient Egypt as a form of universal mother goddess, benevolent to all in Egyptian society. She became worshipped by many Roman communities, particularly those, like Pompei, which had strong trade links with Egypt. One of the first buildings discovered in the excavation of 1764, its origins were revealed upon the discovery of an inscription one year later.

The Temple of Isis is located behind the Large Theatre. Originally built in the late 2nd century BC, it was destroyed by the earthquake in 62 AD, and was in the process of being rebuilt. This work was funded from the personal fortune of a freed slave. The temple was thought to have been particularly popular with slaves, servants and the working classes of Pompei.

Like many temples in the city, the Temple of Isis is built in the Hellenic style, and features a cella where sacred statues of the goddess were kept. The temple also features a columned podium, accessed from a stairway, in its centre. Excavation works at the site also unearthed a number of unusual treasures, including a marble hand, bronze candlesticks and a human skull, believed to have been used in cult rituals.
Doric Temple

3) Doric Temple

The Doric Temple is located on one side of the Triangular Forum, a three-sided open space next to the Large Theatre. It is one of the oldest buildings in Pompei, and is believed to have stood here since the sixth century BC. At this time, Pompei belonged to Greece, and was part of the powerful state of Cumar. The temple is believed to have been a place of worship for Hercules, the mythical founder of the city, and later Minerva, goddess of wisdom and war. Reconstructed during the Samnite period, it appears that the temple fell out of usage in the Roman era. Unlike many Roman temples, which often feature a podium at their centre, the entirety of the Doric Temple is raised several feet off the ground, and accessed by broad stone steps on each side.

The temple was once flanked by short, wide columns, though now only stumps remain. At the centre, the cella is divided into two chambers. One chamber features a large flag, embedded into the floor. In front of the temple, there is a small walled enclosure, similar to a cella. This is thought to be a heroon, a small shrine to an idol or hero – in this case, Hercules.
Street Painted Altar

4) Street Painted Altar

The street altar located near the Lupinarium has a painted lararium and the Latin expression above: OTIOSIS, LOCUS HIC, NON EST DISCEDE MORATOR ("This is no place for idle people. No loitering"). There was special attention paid to the serpents covering most of the pained altar wall. They symbolized gods at the house shrine, with a figure of Genius on the back wall.
Temple of Jupiter

5) Temple of Jupiter (must see)

The Temple of Jupiter sits at the northern end of the Forum, a large open space once used as a market place. Also known as the Capitolium, it was a place of worship for Jupiter, the Roman ruler of the Gods and protector of Rome. Temples dedicated to Jupiter were considered the centres of Roman religion. This temple, built in the mid 2nd century BC, marked the passing of Pompei into the Roman Empire. Pompei was originally a Greek settlement, and was later ruled by the Samnites. Originally occupied by Romans in 310 BC, it maintained a degree of autonomy, with many Greek gods worshipped more fervently than those followed in Rome.

A failed revolt in 89 BC led to a more forceful implementation of Roman language, culture and law in Pompei. This saw Jupiter become the town’s highest God, and his temple the centre of Pompeian worship. It later also became a place of worship for Juno and Minerva, who together with Jupiter formed the Capitoline Triad of Gods. The temple dominates one side of the forum, and is built in traditional Italic style, with a cella at the centre housing statues of the Capitoline Triad. A bronze bust of Jupiter can be seen at the northern end of the temple. A chamber below the temple housed sacrificial offerings and the city’s treasury.
Triumphal Arch of Tiberius

6) Triumphal Arch of Tiberius (must see)

The Triumphal Arch of Tiberius was erected to celebrate the recovery of Roman standards which had been stolen. They were retrieved by Germanicus, the nephew and adopted heir of Emperor Tiberius. The two relatives were key Roman leaders, and endured a tumultuous rivalry. The arch is just one example – it celebrates the reclaiming of Roman standards, and attributes them to Tiberius, rather than his nephew. In later years, Germanicus’ popularity grew due to his many military victories, and many Romans felt he would make a better emperor than his uncle. Germanicus was known to distribute food and carry out other imperial duties, against Tiberius’ wishes.

Following a military engagement in Syria, Germanicus died suddenly – many believe he was poisoned. His popularity led to his son Caligula, his brother Claudius and his grandson Nero all becoming emperors of Rome. The arch, located between the Temple of Jupiter and the Macellum, is built in reddish stone, and features two niches for the housing of sacred statues. It is found towards the centre of the city, in Regio VII, one of eight designated regions the city has been divided into in the modern age. Regio VII is an area running from the centre of Pompei to the western city walls.
Temple of Fortuna Augusto

7) Temple of Fortuna Augusto (must see)

The Temple of Fortuna Augusto stands on the corner of via del Foro and via della Fortuna. It was built by Marcus Tullius, a wealthy local benefactor and relative of Cicero. Tullius even appointed a minister for the cult, which worshipped the then Roman Emperor, Augustus Caesar. When Augustus died, the temple began worshipping his successor, and continued to worship whoever claimed the title of emperor.

The temple, like many Roman places of worship, kept religious statues in its cella. Each time a new emperor was crowned, the minister would order a new statue and place it in a niche within the cella. This led many of the citizens of Pompei to believe that the temple was politically rather than religiously motivated. A statue of Augustus remained in the central niche throughout the temple’s history, however.

This small temple was destroyed in the earthquake of 62 AD, and never fully rebuilt. It originally had a very similar layout to the Temple of Jupiter, located nearby at the edge of the Forum. A raised podium at the centre of the temple, accessible via a stone staircase, contained an altar and the cella. Within the cella, five niches housed statues of Augustus and his successors.
Temple of Apollo

8) Temple of Apollo (must see)

The Temple of Apollo stands next to the Forum in the historic heart of Pompei. It is thought to have been the most important religious building in the city for much of its history, and certainly during Greek and Samnite rule. The cult of Apollo, a Greek congregation who worshipped Apollo, son of Zeus and God of light, knowledge and the sun, drew a great many followers in Campania from the 6th century BC onwards.

The temple gained its present form in the 2nd century BC, and was a central part of Pompei life – so much so that the mensa ponderaria is carved into its perimeter wall. This chart forms the town’s guide to official measurements, for use by traders in the Forum. Damaged extensively by the earthquake of 62 AD, it was never fully rebuilt. Its elevated podium still allows visitors a clear view to Vesuvius, north west of the city.

The Temple of Apollo was built in the form of a peripteros – a raised platform surrounded on all sides by columns. This creates an arcade which runs around the outside of the temple. This area was redecorated under Roman rule, but the changes have almost completely disappeared over time. In the centre of the temple, you can see a white marble altar, and a set back cella, which contains statues of Apollo and Diana.

9) Basilica (must see)

The Basilica stands on the left hand side of a large square, which has the Forum at its centre. It is the oldest Roman Basilica ever discovered, and has stood here since the 2nd century BC. This was one of Pompei’s most important buildings, housing the town’s law courts, as well as halls for commercial and financial transactions. The main entrance was located on one of the building’s two short sides, behind a portico. The portico contains 28 columns, which are made of cut tiles. There is some debate over whether these thick columns held a complete roof, or whether the centre of the building was open to the elements.

Immediately next to the entrance is where the tribunal, or law court, still stands. Dominating one side of the Basilica building, it consists of a two metre high podium originally topped with six Corinthian columns. There are no stairs down from the podium, suggesting that temporary steps were used for judges to access it, preventing members of the public from reaching them whilst passing judgment. The outside walls of the Basilica are made of painted stucco, much of which has been preserved by the ash falls which buried the city in 79 AD.
Temple of Venus

10) Temple of Venus

Pompei as a city is fairly compact, its grid of streets tightly packed onto a hillside. At the western edge of the centre, you reach the top of the hill close to the Temple of Venus. On a hot summer’s day in southern Italy, the uphill walk can be a struggle. A visit to the temple can be hard work, but visitors are rewarded with stunning views of the River Sarno and Gulf of Naples below. The temple was built here by the Sullans, a Roman faction who invaded Pompei in 80 BC, fully enforcing Roman culture and language on the city for the first time.

As one of the first buildings completed under this new regime, the Temple of Venus was built in accordance with strict Roman architectural guidelines. Facing towards the sea, it was formed from a wide tufa podium, surrounded by porticos, with marble decoration throughout. Built as a symbol of the wealth and status of the Sullans, as well as a fitting place of worship for the Roman goddess of love, it is thought to have been the finest temple in Pompei. Sadly, its prominent position, close to the city walls, made it a target for invaders, meaning it was largely ruined when first rediscovered two centuries ago.

Walking Tours in Pompei, Italy

Create Your Own Walk in Pompei

Create Your Own Walk in Pompei

Creating your own self-guided walk in Pompei is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Old City Self Guided Tour II

Old City Self Guided Tour II

2,000 years on, the secrets of Pompei have not been fully revealed until today. Wonderful pieces of art have been found in the excavations of the ancient town. Enjoy the view of Vesuvius and touch the preserved walls, which keep the memories of Pompei and its citizens alive. Take this tour and discover the town once buried under the thick layer of ash.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.4 Km or 0.9 Miles
Pompei Ancient Life Tour

Pompei Ancient Life Tour

Pompei is a prosperous ancient town that was buried under ashes from Vesuvius eruption in 79 AD. The disaster perfectly preserved some of Pompei's artifacts can now tell us about the daily life and traditions of its citizens. Follow this self-guided tour to explore the town houses and learn more about the life of its inhabitants.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.9 Km or 0.6 Miles
Pompei Introduction Walking Tour

Pompei Introduction Walking Tour

Once, almost 2,000 years ago, the prosperous city of Pompei was buried under the ash from Vesuvius and this preserved its historic and cultural treasures for hundreds of years. Rich in archaeological and historic sites, Pompei is well worth seeing. Take this orientation walk down Pompei streets, and enjoy the most popular sights of Pompei.

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles
Old City Self Guided Tour I

Old City Self Guided Tour I

Due to the quick and unexpected death of the city of Pompei, it has become a window into the past, which shows us the way people lived back in the 1st century A.D. Roman Empire. Take this tour to discover the preserved sights of the ancient city -- the details of its public, private and cultural life.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.2 Km or 0.7 Miles