A Little Perspective…How Big is the Hand of Hercules?

One of my favorite photos from my Jordan travels is this photo of the hand of Hercules laying on the ground on a hilltop in Amman, Jordan. In fact, one day I might frame it because it sets my imagination wandering when I look at it.

Giant Hercules Hand, Amman, Jordan

Hercules' hand, a fragment left over from a statue that would have stood at the Temple of Hercules on Citadel Hill in Amman, Jordan.

Intriguingly, the first person I showed it to was mostly unimpressed. “It looks tiny, what is it?”

And I realized that my memory of this spot, of everything surrounding this hand, the grey hazy air and a languid breeze against my cheek as I framed the shot–that’s my perspective on the photo.

But what is the truth? Can you tell from this shot the size of Hercules’ hand? How big would you reckon it is?

Think about that, as we take a look at the rest of the Citadel complex (don’t worry, we’ll come back to a wider-angle on the hand :)

Amman Citadel, Jordan.

The Amman Citadel and Temple of Hercules sit with a gorgeous view of the surrounding city, Amman, Jordan.

The hilltop holding Amman’s temple is unremarkable as far as hills are concerned; the thing is, Amman, Jordan is a city comprised of seven hills, and the one holding the Temple of Hercules isn’t taller than the others, it’s not greener, or more “hilly,” but yet this hill was the one chosen by the ancient Romans to hold the Temple of Hercules and a Byzantine church.

In hearing the name Hercules, in an instant my mind takes a fanciful wander through Greek history and mythology.

Amman Citadel, Jordan

An overcast sky and the towers of the Amman Citadel, Jordan

As the illegitimate son of Zeus and Alcmene, Hercules has long held a fascination for me…and likely not just me. Greek mythology paints Hercules as a human as much as he was a demigod, as strong and powerful as the Gods but riddled by earthly disputes and relationship problems.

In Amman, Citadel Hill, Jabal al-Qal’a, stands out because it’s located in what is now the heart of downtown, modern Amman. While the seven surrounding hillsides hold rectangles of housing jutting up from the terracotta earth, Citadel Hill is more than merely a spot for holding the city’s occupants. Instead, the tall white marble temple columns are visible throughout the rest of the city and serve as a reminder of the Jordan’s ancient history.

Sunset at the Amman Citadel columns, Jordan

As the sun goes behind the clouds late afternoon shadows darken the columns of the Amman Citadel, Jordan

The crumbling marble columns are deceptive though, archaeologists believe parts of the Citadel complex, including the Temple of Hercules, were likely left unfinished even nearly two thousand years ago when the Temple was commissioned by Marcus Aurelius.

Pottery shards at the museum in the Amman Citadel, Jordan.Pottery and art from ancient Rome are found at Amman Citadel, Jordan

Details of works found during excavations at the Amman Citadel, Jordan Beautiful small pieces of pottery inside the museum at the Amman Citadel, Jordan

What is left though, those fingers crawling over the side of the hill, a huge white fragment of elbow, these pieces contribute to the mythology of Hercules. Perhaps more impressive than actually seeing the giant statue of Hercules that must have stood on this spot, instead I wandered a statue graveyard of sorts. Pieces and parts of a statue that no longer stands lay littered on the ground in front of the marble columns.

So let’s go back to the idea of perspective. The hand was huge and the statue would have stood as much as 42 feet high (13 meters).

Hercules Statue Fragments, Amman Jordan

Pieces of the Hercules statue lie on the ground on the hilltop of the Amman Citadel, Jordan

Though only fragments of the statue remain, I find myself still thinking about the enormity of this statue, what an ancient visitor must have thought as they stood on a nearby hilltop and looked at a colossal, white human-like figure dominating the distant skyline.

So tell me, does the first photo portray the enormity of Hercules’ hand in this statue, or do you instead see small creeping fingers along the dirt?  Would love your perspective on this! :)

My Jordan trip  was sponsored by the Jordan Tourism Board, but the experiences, photos, &  opinions are my own :)

, , , , , , , ,


  • Tom

    I really liked this piece. The first picture shows it being either large or small…I saw large and others might see small. I think that is the best part, perspective. 

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Tom! I have to really squint my eyes to see it small, and consensus seems to agree that it looks pretty big! Appreciate you weighing in on this  :)

  • http://www.travelnlass.com/ TravelnLass

    Yes, perspective.  Ever elusive w/o some universally known object adjacent to show relative size.  A flower amid the fingers would do nicely, but it doesn’t look like any such greenery might be found in that area.

    Hmmm – maybe… a Jordanian dinar note tucked into his fingers – and the caption could be “Show Me the Money”? ;)

    • Anonymous

      A dinar note would have been such a great idea! It didn’t even occur to me at the time, but it would have been a lot of fun to have that as the piece of perspective…and I could have used that line and that would have been hilarious. Duly noted that I need to think a bit wittier next time! :)

  • http://www.travelsofmike.com Mike

    I think it can go both ways, but at first glance, I thought it was huge. Maybe because of the city behind it. Are there two different Hercules’ hands or is the first pic a different angle on the last pic?

    • Anonymous

      Same hand in both photos. In the first one I am very low to the ground, so it’s looking a bit up at the hand, while in the second I am standing slightly above it…intriguing how it totally changes it right?!  :)

  • Scott Shigeoka

    That’s so awesome. Jordan is definitely one of the spots I want to hit up…seems more down the ‘road less traveled’, which is always nice! I thought the hand would be HUGE judging from the first photo…but you’re right, perspective does factor in a lot!

  • Akin Roblefrondoso

    Did you use a Tilt lens?

    • Anonymous

      Nope, just got really low to the ground for the first one…in fact I wouldn’t even quite know how to use a tilt lens! Thanks for stopping by and weighing in! :) 

  • http://www.thetravelchica.com Stephanie – The Travel Chica

    I thought it was big in the first photo, but I definitely didn’t think it was as big as it looks in the last photo.

  • http://www.thetravelchica.com Stephanie – The Travel Chica

    I thought it was big in the first photo, but I definitely didn’t think it was as big as it looks in the last photo.

    • Anonymous

      It really is just enormous…the sign at the site called it “colossal” and that about sums up what a 42 foot statue must have looked like!  Thanks for weighing in Stephanie :)

  • Jeremy Branham

    For the first photo, I would have to say creeping fingers in the dirt.  While I knew that it was big, it didn’t look that way in the photo because the foreground looks you were really close to the ground.  However, seeing it from a distance and reading that it was 42 feet high, I can only imagine what seeing the full statue would look like in person!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for weighing in Jeremy! :)  I still can hardly wrap my brain around a 42 foot high statue standing on that hillside…it must have looked gargantuan even in comparison to the other buildings at the time!  :)

  • http://rltblog.com Asaf Braverman

    There is something deceiving in the weeds, and the out-of-focus foreground and background, that make it look like something you bought in a museum store and laid there for a photoshoot. The last photo of your post, of course, settles that doubt. Thanks for opening a window into this mysterious place.

    • Anonymous

      It’s intriguing that the focus gave it such a mysterious quality (I am now filing that trick away in my head for future, purposeful use!). Thanks for stopping in and sharing your perspective,  have a wonderful weekend!

  • http://www.travelfromthetriangle.com Cat

    I definitely saw an enormous hand at first but I’m not sure if that was because I’d already read the title with Hercules in it. Either way, it’s fun to see the two different perspectives of either a hand holding onto a cliff or just a hand in the dirt next to other undoubtedly large ruins.

    • Anonymous

      That’s a very good point…it’s hard to imagine anything with Hercules in it’s name as minuscule and tiny  :)  Thanks for weighing in Cat!

  • Anonymous

    I saw the enormity. I guess your friend must have been thinking about all the trick photography out there these days that make objects appear larger than they seem. That didn’t even cross my mind, I just saw a huge hand. You are right, imagine what people thought of that statue when it was standing. Wow! Great photos Shannon, we didn’t make it to the Citadel Temple when we were in Jordan, wish we did!

    • Anonymous

      The statue really must have looked amazing back then, in the time before skyscrappers, sitting on that hill  :)   Thanks for weighing in..as for visiting, it’s always good to leave a couple things undone so now you have at least one reason to go back (and for me, those Petra at night photos you guys took will send me back one day!) 

  • Tropicalpenpals

    Jordan is one of those places that should be seen in a lifetime. Pity it doesn’t get more world promotion on the many historical sites it has.

    • Anonymous

      Couldn’t agree more, it’s such a gorgeous country and the history in that entire region effected the development of current civilization. Thanks for stopping in and sharing :)

      • Tropicalpenpals

        Your welcome.. Great photos by the way. Its good to see some preservation going on in Jordan if not so well highlighted as a place to visit. I remember artifacts being found in a new road development here that seen most of it disappear by workers who sold it to private collectors. Sad to see especially when its their history they are selling out. Goes on around the world but here in the Philippines I find people are struggling more for a historical connection than anywhere else I have been.

  • Pingback: A Little Photo Essay...Jumping My Way Around Jordan | A Little Adrift