02. Ancient Mediterranean, Art & Humanities, Paganism, Religion

#31. Temple of Minerva. (Veii, near Rome, Italy.) Master sculptor Vulca. c. 510-500 BCE. Original temple of wood, mudbrick, or tufa (volcanic rock)

#31. Temple of Minerva. (Veii, near Rome, Italy.) Master sculptor Vulca. c. 510-500 BCE. Original temple of wood, mudbrick, or tufa (volcanic rock)

Art Historical Background

Note: the image from the 250 is a reconstruction based on archeological records and written sources from the Roman writer Vitruvius because Etruscan architecture employed mudbrick and tufa which do not stand as well to the test of time as does marble.

At first glance the Etruscan temple seems to resemble your typical Greek temple structure. However, instead of columns around the entire perimeter (as in the Parthenon) the Temple of Minerva has an incredibly deep porch (more similar to the Pantheon in Rome) with a double row of wooden smooth columns. The roof was timber covered in terracotta tiles, originally with sculptural figures on top. The image from the 250 has a statue of Apollo with the temple (see the last paragraph of this blog post for treatment of this sculpture). You could only enter the temple from a high stairway to the podium at a singular front entrance. This temple had three cellas (internal worship spaces), one for each of the principal gods: Tinia (Zeus/Jupiter), Uni (Hera/Juno), and Menrva (Athena/Minerva). The goddess Minerva is associated with war strategy, wisdom, law, justice and victory. She is not “a war” god; but rather reflects the prevalence of war in ancient societies.

Not included in the 250 image but something to note for context, outside the sanctuary of Portonaccio was a stone drain to pour libations and a sacred pool. Similar to Ancient Greek and Roman religious rites, the temple space was not made for large group worship and the temple complex was as utilized as the interior space (perhaps more so because it was more accessible to worshipers).

More on the Etruscans: READ HERE.

The statue of Apollo (sometimes spelled Aplu or Apulu) of Veii is a life-sized terracotta statue from an unknown Etruscan workshop. This sculpture was part of a grouping of four was placed on the apex of the rooftop of the temple. The narrative content of the sculpture grouping is one of the twelve labors of Hercle (Hercules/Herakles) in which he confronts Apollo to battle for the hind of Cerynei, a gold-horned beast sacred to his twin-sister Artemis. The statue of Hercle was also uncovered, but not nearly as intact as the statue of Apollo.

The statue would have originally had outstretched arms, perhaps guiding Apollo’s sun chariot. The style of the statue reflects Archaic Greek influence in its stylized facial expressions and clothing drapery. Also, like Ancient Greek statues, it would have originally been fully painted.


Next time: #32. Tomb of the Triclinium Tarquinia, Italy. Etruscan. c. 480–470 BCE. Tufa and fresco.
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