Friday, 2 January 2015

The Pagan Sites of Europe Remembered (26): The Temple of Lacinian Hera in Southern Italy


The holiest pagan site in Magna Graecia, the part of Southern Italy settled by the Greeks, was the temple of Lacinian Hera. This was six miles from the then important city of Crotona on the Lacinian promontory.

It was the scene of a great annual assembly of all the Italian Greeks, at which a procession took place in honour of the goddess, to whom splendid offerings were made. This festival became a favourite occasion for the Greeks of the neighbouring cities to display their magnificence.

The temple was large and impressive but fell in gradual decline as the economic importance of the area declined in the 4th and 5rd centuries BC. Many of the ruins were destroyed in the 16th century to build the episcopal palace at Crotone, the modern Italian name of the declined ancient city. Now all of note that stands is a single Doric column about 27 feet high that was probably left as a landmark for sailors.

Hera was the queen of the gods in the Greek pantheon and presided over marriage. Lacinius was an Italian hero. One legend of the temple’s foundation is that when Heracles was returning from the West with the famous oxen of Geryon, Lacinius stole some of the oxen and in response was killed by Haracles, who then purified the site and dedicated the site built to Hera.

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