The Roman pillars of the Temple of Hercules

The moon is seen over the Roman pillars of the Temple of Hercules at the Citadel in Amman, Jordan as it is lit up in blue to mark the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, The Pillars of Hercules was the phrase that was applied in Antiquity to the promontories that flank the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar. The northern Pillar is the Rock of Gibraltar (now part of the British overseas territory of Gibraltar). A corresponding North African peak not being predominant, the identity of the southern Pillar has been disputed throughout history, with the two most likely candidates being Monte Hacho in Ceuta and Jebel Musa in Morocco.
According to Greek mythology adopted by the Etruscans and Romans, when Hercules had to perform twelve labours, one of them (the tenth) was to fetch the Cattle of Geryon of the far West and bring them to Eurystheus; this marked the westward extent of his travels. A lost passage of Pindar quoted by Strabo was the earliest traceable reference in this context: “the pillars which Pindar calls the ‘gates of Gades’ when he asserts that they are the farthermost limits reached by Heracles.” There is one to one association between Herakles and Melqart since Herodotus, thus “Pillars of Melqart” in the temple near Gades/Gádeira (modern Cádiz) were widely proclaimed to be the true Pillars of Hercules. 
Before the 6th Century BCE several mountains in the edges of mainland Greece were seen as pillars that supported the sky. Amongst others, the two southward pointing headlands on each side of the Gulf of Laconia were “pillars of Hercules”.  Support for this Peloponnesian location for the pillars comes from Medinet Habu in Egypt, dating to 1,200 BCE, which describes the Sea Peoples invading from the islands of the north “from the pillars of heaven”, by which the Egyptians meant the ends of the earth as they knew it.  Earlier in the Aegean region there was, during Minoan and Mycenaean times a “pillar cult” in the region, that may relate to the pillars of Hercules. Crete, in Egypt was called “Keftiu” which has been etymologically related to the Greek word “Kapita” meaning “pillar” (hence the Capital of a pillar). 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s