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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Palestrina (ancient Praeneste; Template:Lang-grc) is an ancient city and comune (municipality) with a population of about 18,000, in Lazio, c. 35 km east of Rome. It is connected to latter by the Via Prenestina.

It is the namesake of composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina.

Sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia

Praeneste was chiefly famed for its Temple of Fortuna Primigenia connected with the oracle known as the Praenestine lots (sortes praenestinae). The temple was redeveloped after 82 BC as a spectacular series of terraces, exedras and porticos on four levels down the hillside, linked by monumental stairs and ramps. The inspiration for this feat of unified urbanistic design lay, not in republican Rome, but in the Hellenistic monarchies of the eastern Mediterranean. Praeneste offered a foretaste of the grandiose Imperial style of the following generation.

The oldest portion of the primitive sanctuary was situated on the terrace just above the lowest one, in a grotto in the natural rock where there was a spring that developed into a well. As the archaic shrine was elaborated from the 2nd century BC, it was given a colored mosaic pavement representing a seascape: a temple of Poseidon on the shore, with fish of all kinds swimming in the sea. To the east of this grotto is a large space, now open, but once very possibly roofed, and forming a two-story basilica built against the rock on the north side, and there decorated with pilasters. To the east is an apsidal hall, often identified with the temple itself, in which was found the famous mosaic with scenes from the Nile, relaid in the Palazzo Barberini-Colonna in Palestrina on the uppermost terrace (now a National Museum). Under this hall is a chamber, which an inscription on its walls identified as a treasury in the 2nd century BC. In front of this temple an obelisk was erected in the reign of Claudius, fragments of which still exist.

As extended under Sulla, the sanctuary of Fortune came to occupy a series of five vast terraces, which, resting on gigantic masonry substructure and connected with each other by grand staircases, rose one above the other on the hill in the form of the side of a pyramid, crowned on the highest terrace by the round temple of Fortune. This immense edifice, probably by far the largest sanctuary in Italy, must have presented a most imposing aspect, visible as it was from a great part of Latium, from Rome, and even from the sea. The ground at the foot of the lowest terrace is 1476 feet (450 m) above sea-level; here is a cistern, divided into ten large chambers, in brick-faced concrete.

The goddess Fortuna here went by the name of Primigenia ("First Bearer"), she was represented suckling two babes, as in the Christian representation of Charity, said to be Jupiter and Juno, and she was especially worshipped by matrons. The oracle continued to be consulted down to Christian times, until Constantine the Great, and again later Theodosius I, forbade the practice and closed the temple.

Features of the temple influenced Roman garden design on steeply sloped sites through Antiquity and once again in Italian villa gardens from the 15th century. The monument to Victor Emmanuel II in Rome owes a lot to the Praeneste sanctuary complex.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Palestrina" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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