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Roman temple of the Neapolitan Isolympic Games to be hosted in Naples subway station


The Roman temple of the Neapolitan Isolympic Games, found during the excavations for the construction of Duomo subway station, is set to become the calling card of the new train station in Naples.

Roman temple of the Neapolitan Isolympic Games to be hosted in Naples subway station
The Duomo station project with the podium of the temple [Credit: Napoli da Vivere]
The Metro works in Naples are one of the most impressive archaeological excavations in Europe, an immense work of large urban impact which has inevitably slowed the construction of the Duomo metro station Line 1 in Naples.

Although buried under layers of tufa and cement, the temple of the Neapolitan Isolympic Games was well known to the archaeological community which has been awaitng its rediscovery for centuries.

Roman temple of the Neapolitan Isolympic Games to be hosted in Naples subway station
Architectural fragments from the temple [Credit: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli]
The Neapolitani Games or Ludi Neapolitani were established in the year AD 2 to honour the Emperor Augustus, who some years before had intervened to rescue the Neapolitan city devastated by a powerful earthquake.

A dedicatory inscription mentioning the erection of a temple in honour of Emperor Augustus in the city of Neapolis has in fact been found at Olympia, the Greek city where the famous games dedicated to Zeus took place.

Roman temple of the Neapolitan Isolympic Games to be hosted in Naples subway station
Podium of the Temple [Credit: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli]
The Neapolitan Games quickly became the most prestigious Olympic-style festival in the west - the Italika Romaia Sebasta Isolympia - attracting athletes and champions from every corner of the Mediterranean.

They were held every five years and included several disciplines, from boxing and the pentathlon to running and equestrian events, as well as competitions in acting and singing.

Roman temple of the Neapolitan Isolympic Games to be hosted in Naples subway station
Statue of Nero found in the porch of the temple [Credit: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli]
During the excavation of the temple some 800 fragments of marble lists inscribed with the names of the winning athletes of the Neapolitan Games were also discovered.

The remains of the temple itself, which has only been partially excavated, will adorn the hall of the new metro station, becoming a real tourist attraction.

Roman temple of the Neapolitan Isolympic Games to be hosted in Naples subway station
Inscribed marble stele with the names of winners [Credit: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli]
Due to the layout of the subway, archaeologists have had to lift the base of the temple to allow the continuation of the Metro works.

Once construction works have been completed (it is hoped by 2020) the temple will be partially rebuilt with the relocation of columns and collapsed elements..


The importance of Neapolis and of this historic building is summed-up by renowned Italian archaeologist Amedeo Maiuri as follows: "Naples was the only city of the Western Roman world to host games in honour of Augustus. This was not so much due to the Emperor's personal influence or for any political agenda, but rather to the city's intact Greek culture. In fact, during the general decline of Hellenism in Magna Graecia and Sicily, the town of Neapolis was still using the Greek language, institutions, cults, rites and customs. As such Neapolis could be considered the metropolis of Western Hellenism during the first period of the Roman Empire."

Source: Il Vaporetto [February 28, 2017]
TANN

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