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The great temple of Hadrian at Cyzicus

December 13, 2016

In December of 2015 we had the opportunity to visit the ruins of the ancient Cyzicus, in Turkey, and there we found the vestiges of what was its most precious jewel: the Temple of Hadrian. This is the account of what we saw there:
 

 1.- Ruins of Hadrian´s temple podium.


Between dairy farms and small farms dedicated to the cultivation of the olive tree rises a powerful staggered structure of more than a hundred meters in length. It is only partially excavated. Although there is no lack of ashlar in its walls, masonry agglomerated with lime mortar predominates. It is the podium of the temple of Hadrian (photo 1): the largest and most sumptuous of Cycicus buildings, considered in antiquity one of the most sublime buildings of all time, to the point of appearing included in all lists of marvelous buildings made by the classical authors. In some cases it was even compared it closely with the Artemision of Ephesus, considering that it could well replace it in the famous list of the seven major wonders of the ancient world. So proud was the city of Cízicus of his wonderful temple that it did not hesitate to represent it in the reverses of its coins as we can see in the example of figure 1:

 

 

Hadrian visited Cízico in A.D.123, shortly after the strong earthquake that shook the region. Moved by the degree of destruction that the city had suffered, he ordered defray the reconstruction of the city and, also, the erection of a lavish temple to worship his imperial figure using imperial funds. The resulting work was a huge octostyle temple, with sixteen columns on each long side: the highest ones in the classical world with its 21.3 meters in height and 2.3 meters in diameter (the second highest ones, in the Lebanese temple of Baalbek , "only" reached 19 meters). But if the new temple was immense (the largest in the ancient world as recently calculated), the sumptuousness of its decoration was not far behind, abounding the most beautiful friezes and architraves carved out of a high quality white marble. The remains of these superb sculptures now occupy, rather huddled, the small esplanade located in front of the podium of the temple, being possible to walk among them and contemplate the beauty of their designs. In the following photos we can see a sample of these ones (photos 2, 3, 4 and 5) as well as some fragment of column (photo 6).