Its location was a mystery for hundreds of years. It was considered almost a mythical place. Then, along came a doctoral student from the University of Seville, Ricardo Belizón. He located traces of a monumental building in the caño de Sancti Petri, a coastal and intertidal area of the bay of Cadiz. And yes, he would have made the discovery of the mythical temple of Hercules Gaditano.
The sanctuary was visited by the likes of Julius Caesar and the Carthaginian conqueror Hannibal. It dates back to at least the 9th century BC. Belizón was studying what the coastal landscape of Cádiz was like in antiquity in a hot spot of archaeological finds. The discovery is a surprising twist.
“These are first-rate finds,” explains Francisco José García. Head of the Department of Prehistory and Archaeology at the University of Seville. This sacred space is mentioned in several classical Greco-Latin sources. There, Julius Caesar wept bitterly before a representation of Alexander the Great. A century and a half before, the Carthaginian conqueror Hannibal also went there.
The site is a huge marshy pipe dominated by an islet. The castle of Sancti Petri that rises on it has been yielding important archaeological finds for more than two centuries. Previously, large marble and bronze sculptures of Roman emperors were found here.
Drawing the past
“We have worked with public data, with digital terrain models and with free software,” says Belizón. He sought to recreate the landscape of 3,000 years ago. They found, then, that there were remains of structures, and even a port.
The rectangular building is 300 meters by 150 meters in plan. It is said that it was accessed by crossing two columns. The frontispiece recounted the 12 labours of Hercules. It became famous for the large number of supposed relics of the ancient world it housed.
The finding of the mythical temple of Hercules Gaditano must be confirmed. However, each new piece of information will accelerate more the heart of the investigators. Everything indicates that the search of so many centuries finally came to an end.