Dating back to the second half of the VI century
B.C., the temple in Doric order
of "Casa Marafioti" is located not far from the theatre. Its present day
name (that literally means "Marafioti's House") is due to the fact that part
of its perimeter was used, during the modern age (XVIII century a.D.), as the
foundation ground of the "Casino Imperatore", a building that later became Marafioti's family home.
Most likely, the temple
was dedicated to Zeus and this assumption (though not definitive) has been made
by scholars after discovering an inscription in Greek letters, dated
back to the III-II century B.C., in which appears a dedication (AINEASON....SOTERI) to Zeus Soter (the Saviour).
The first exploration of the temple dates back to 1830 and
it was led by HonorÚ
Theodoric d'Albert, Duc de Luynes, who started the excavation works
around the "Casino Imperatore" building (later called "Casa Marafioti");
those works brought to light a large
portion of the western base of
the temple that was still in place at that time, but having unearthed it
during an age in which there
was absolutely no surveillance over the area dramatically marked its fate,
since the stone blocks were soon plundered for reusing.
"Da assai tempo mi premeva di controllare quanto fondamento
avessero le voci, che nel sito dell'attuale casa Marafioti sorgesse un
tempo un tempio greco [...]"
a long time I've been wanting to investigate how reliable were the
rumors about the existence in the past of a Greek temple in the
area of the present-day casa Marafioti [...]"
(Paolo Orsi, Notizie degli scavi di antichitÓ, Serie V, Vol.
VIII - Supplemento 1911 - Roma 1912, Pag. 27)
That's why, in 1910,
when archaeologist Paolo Orsi began the investigation of the area he found himself in front of very few ruins that,
although scarce, allowed him to draw a map of the temple and to collect
lots of information about
the ancient sanctuary as well to bring back to light the famous terracotta
statue group known as
Marafioti Horseman. Once the study of the ruins was completed, the area
covered again and nowadays there are no visible signs of those ruins.
At the present day the Sanctuary of Olympian Zeus has not been located yet, except
for a really impressive cylindrical container in limestone closed by a
heavy cover (the "Teca" - 125
cm of diameter and high about a meter and a half, with a wall thickness of 31 cm), which served as the archive of the Sanctuary itself.
Illegally unearthed in the late 50s, the "Teca" was plundered of its entire content;
thankfully, after a short time, a part of the content, 39 bronze tablets, was
recovered, allowing the scholars to discover important information regarding
both the ancient city and the existence of this Sanctuary, once unknown.
Over the years it was thought that the "Teca" could be linked to the Temple of "Casa
Marafioti", but the distance and the difference in height
between the two monuments has persuaded the experts that the Temple of Olympian Zeus has to be
searched elsewhere and that the "Teca" was, probably, an integral part of the
temenos of the Sanctuary.
SANCTUARY OF OLYMPIAN ZEUS - The Cover of the "Teca"
Shrine of "Grotta Caruso", also known as Cave of the Nymphs (which
were worshipped there), lies outside the city walls in a cave which is
located in today's Caruso district. Already active in the VI century b.C.,
the Shrine was one of the many examples of how the ancients saw in the
natural resources, crucial to the survival of the community (in this case
it was a water spring), a divine sign that had to be honored and
The Shrine was officially discovered by prof. Paolo Enrico Arias in 1940,
but we know for certain that already a year earlier some farmers had
looted the area to resell the artifacts. Despite this, however, prof.
Arias was able to unearth a large number of votive terracottas, including
lots of small heads and feminine busts, small figurines of Pan and
figurines of flute and lyre players, models of grottos and water springs,
and many other finds; a testimony of how advanced was the development of
the art in Locri during that period.
Nowadays the visit of the place is not very easy
nor recommended since the cave mostly
collapsed after the conclusion of the excavations; its archaeological
finds may, however, be admired at the National Archaeological Museum of
Locri Epizephyrii and at the National Museum of Reggio Calabria.
SANCTUARY OF ZEUS
HURLING THUNDERBOLTS - Roman Age Structures (On
the background the ruins of the tower at the east corner of the walls)
Right behind the National Archaeological
Museum of Locri Epizephyrii, just before taking the path that leads to the Temple of
MarasÓ, there is an area (next to the squared tower which characterizes the east corner
of the ancient town walls), in which the archaeologists have identified several votive
deposits dating back to a period between the V century b.C. and the III century b.C.
From these deposits was recovered a large amount of terracotta artifacts depicting Zeus ready
to hurl a thunderbolt that have led the scholars to hypothesize the attribution of this sacred
area to Zeus "hurling thunderbolts".
Since the beginning, the exploration and the study of the Sanctuary have proven to be very
difficult; partly due to the presence of Roman age structures which have been built over the
ancient sacred area, and partly because of the human activity that over the centuries has
irreparably changed the place.
All of this explains why so far it has not yet been possible to bring back to light even a
small portion of what once were the original monumental structures of the Sanctuary.
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