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.
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 :)
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.
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.
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.
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).
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! :)
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