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Temple of Venus


Description of the Temple (Reg VIII, Ins 1, 5)

The Temple of Venus Pompeiana lies immediately to the right on entering the city by way of the Marina Gate.

The goddess Venus Pompeiana was the patron goddess of Lucius Cornelius Sulla as well as of the city of Pompeii. Prior to the founding of the Roman colony the site had been occupied by houses but these were cleared away in the early years of the colony to make way for the temple complex. In less than 250 years the temple was twice built and twice destroyed; a third building was in the course of construction at the time of the eruption.
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On completion of the temple, the court was enlarged by removing the old walls down to their foundations and constructing new outer walls. A new colonnade was also planned, single on the north side with a double colonnade (D) to the east and west. In front of the temple are the remains of a large altar (E) of white limestone and a subterranean passage (F) which was entered near the south east corner.

How far the work had progressed before the earthquake of AD62 is open to debate. Certainly the foundations of the double colonnade on the east and west sides had been laid, but no work appears to have been done on the north side. From the Corinthian capital and fragments of shafts and entablature lying around the court it is clear that at least part of the colonnade had been finished. However, the earthquake wrought havoc on the complex, destroying both the temple and what had been built of the colonnade.

Work on rebuilding the temple began shortly after the earthquake. An even grander temple was envisaged for the site. To cater for its size the existing podium was enlarged. The steps at the front were removed and the podium cut back at each side. On all sides a massive foundation wall over 1.5m wide was then laid composed of large blocks of basalt. A similar wall was constructed through the old podium itself to act as the foundation for the front wall of the new cella. The new foundations are shown grey on the accompanying plans.

At the time of the eruption five courses of basalt had been laid. On the north side of the court are still to be seen a number of blocks awaiting final fitting.

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The main entrance (A) (pictured left) opens off the south side of the Via Marina. There was a secondary entrance (B) which opened off the western end of the Vicolo di Championnet.

The first temple complex covered an area of approximately 300 sq.m. Traces of the walls surrounding the court of this first temple can still be seen (coloured pink on the above plan). Along the east side of the court, which ran parallel to the rear wall of the Basilica, were six rooms, two of which were fully open to the court while the reminder were entered through narrow doorways.


The temple complex was redeveloped during the Julio-Claudian period (first half of the first century AD). The original podium was retained but the temple building was replaced with one of marble. Of this are preserved the foundations of the door posts to the cella (C) and the core of the pedestal on which stood the statue of the divinity.

Based on surviving fragments, the cella floor consisted of a polychrome marble centre framed by a border of white mosaic. The only remains of the superstructure that can be identified are currently in storage in the Forum granary market (Reg VII, Ins 7, 29). The plan below shows the layout of the second temple (superimposed in blue) based on existing finds. It shows a square cella with a deep portico and a single broad central stairway.
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