There is a real Roman temple in Windsor Park

About 8 km south of Windsor Castle, still within the large park is Virginia Water, a very beautiful place famous for its lake and waterfall. However, not everyone knows that there is a Roman temple here. The lake is surrounded by a path leading east to Blacknest Gate, which extends along the water’s edge on the south side of the lake where there are several woods. About a mile east of the gate, the avenue leads into a grassy clearing overlooking the water, leading to the ruins of the Temple of Augustus brought from Leptis Magna to what would now be Libya in 1818, restored and erected by Sir Jeffry Wyatville 1824-6.

 

Photo: © Copyright Robin Webster and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The temple was seen  by a guy called Warrington who heard that the Earl of Elgin had brought half the Parthenon to Britain, and thought of doing the same with this temple hoping to become a hero in his home country. He had problems with the locals, who wanted to keep the temple, not for artistic or historical interest, but to reuse the marble. So poor Warrington couldn’t get the whole temple. The temple is not only found here, In 1600 600 columns of Leptis were taken by Louis XIV for his palaces in Versailles and Paris.

In ancient times, the city of Leptis reached its greatest importance under the emperor Septimius Severus about 200 years after Christ. At that time it was the third most important city in Africa, after Carthage and Alexandria. The emperor had a new and magnificent forum built and enlarged the quays, as well as giving the city a huge basilica full of ornate carved columns. Thereafter, a dramatic decline began. A large tsunami in 365 devastated Leptis along with much of the Mediterranean coast. This was followed by the invasion of the Vandals in the fifth century and the arrival of Muslim armies in the seventh century which eventually left the city in ruins. Since its abandonment, Leptis had been used as a quarry by the local population and a place looted by the Europeans.

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