Temple to Juno Caelestis

When I first came across “Temple of Caelestis” in the map to the ruins of Dougga (Tunisia), I mistook it for a temple to Ceres- the Roman Goddess of Harvest (equivalent of Demeter). It took me quite some time to realise my mistake and to understand that Caelestis was actually the shortened form of ‘Juno Caelestis’ who was actually the Romanised version of the Punic Moon Goddess ‘Tanit’.

Temple of Caelestis- Dougga
Temple of Caelestis- Dougga

One of the amazing features of Roman colonisation was the fact that local Gods and Goddesses were not discarded, but the local deities and customs were merely incorporated into the Roman pantheon with minor variations. This ensured that the local population accepted Rome and her religion without too much resistance. And hence ‘Tanit’ a Punic Goddess became Juno Caelestis.

Tanit was the chief deity of the Phoenician religion. Archaeologists have said that there is reasonable proof to believe that the Carthaginian people actually engaged in child sacrifice and it was not just Roman propaganda that said so.

However, once Tanit became Juno Caelestis, the cult spread to other parts of the Empire.

The temple of Caelestis at Dougga is slightly spaced away from the main cluster of monuments. It is a few minutes walk through fields and olive plantations. I was a bit nervous as it was completely deserted but eventually came across a group of olive farmers who were harvesting olives from a tree.

Olive trees and temple of Caelestis Dougga
Olive trees and temple of Caelestis Dougga

From the Princeton Encyclopedia of classical sites

“To the W in the interior of the plateau is the Temple of Caelestis, which stands in the middle of an olive grove. The sanctuary, which is peripteral (6 x 8 Corinthian columns), stands on a podium preceded by a flight of steps, in the middle of a large semicircular enclosure with a portico, also circular, around it. In front of the sanctuary is a broad paved esplanade built into the temple precinct, each side of which has two lateral doorways with porches in front of them.”

Detail of Corinthian Column- Temple of Caelestis
Detail of Corinthian Column- Temple of Caelestis
Columns Temple of Caelestis
Semicircular portico
Semicircular Portico- Temple of Caelestis
Details of Inscription- Temple of Caelestis
Detail of Corinthian Column- Temple of Caelestis

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Beautiful images and very informative notes also …

    Thank you so much for sharing 🙂

  2. Lav says:

    That’s amazing that you had such an intimate view of the temple. The pictures convey serenity reminding me of Ozymandias.

  3. Nirmala says:

    Very informative. Good to read.

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