Towering over Amman’s modern skyline is the Temple of Hercules, located at the peak of a hillside in one of the ancient city’s oldest quadrants.
Constructed between 162–166 A.D. during Marcus Aurelius’ Roman occupation of Amman’s Citadel, the great temple is larger than any in Rome itself. Its portico faces east and is surrounded by six 33-foot-tall columns. Measuring 100 feet long by 85 feet wide with an outer sanctum of 400 by 236 feet, the fact that the rest of the temple remained unadorned by columns suggests to scholars that the structure was never completed, for reasons history has yet to reveal.
During the excavation process, few clues were left to help scholars unlock the mysteries of this massive half-finished, abandoned temple. But the ones that did exist were huge—albeit ambiguous. From just three gigantic fingers, one elbow, and a scattering of coins, archaeologists have agreed these marble body parts likely belonged to a massive statue of Hercules himself. Therefore, the theory goes, the temple also must have been dedicated to the half-god known for his feats of strength and far-ranging adventures.
Likely toppled during one of the area’s periodic catastrophic earthquakes, the statue fell to bits, but unlike the temple, all except the hand and elbow disappeared. As one guide put it, “the rest of Hercules became Amman’s countertops.”
Experts’ best guess is that, in its original state, the statue would have measured upwards of 40 feet high, which would have placed it among the largest known marble statues to have ever existed.
Back in the here and now, it makes for a pretty enjoyable time to walk up to a cluster of fat fingers, stare at their well-trimmed nails and cuticles, and walk away giggling that scholars have agreed: Hercules enjoyed a good manicure, just like modern-day demigods.
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