The cult of Hercules, with which Tivoli was often identified in ancient times (Herculaneum Tibur), goes back to the era of the flocks transhumance, of which Hercules was considered the protector. Transhumance was in all probability one of the most important economical elements of the city situated between the Sannio and the Roman lowland. This cult to "Hercules Victor" (a warlike and protecting god of the commerce, and as said above, the flocks transhumance) is one of the most important of the Latium. It originated in Tivoli, then it was introduced by Marco Ottavio Erennio in Rome during the last republican age. He was a tiburtine merchant of oil, who after introducing the cult in the eternal city, constructed the round temple "Forum Boario" devoted to him.
At Tivoli, nevertheless, the epithet of "victorious"
given to Hercules gave a more military connotation to
this god. This was assigned to him after a tiburtine victory
on the Volsci. For some others however, it was believed
to have been Equi; which explains the priestly presence
of the Salii (connected with the warlike cult of Mars).
The sanctuary's position was certainly out of the city, as was usual for the cults connected with commerce activity. It topographically rose along the run of a cattle track towards the Sannio that in later times became the Tiburtina-Valeria route.
Originally there was perhaps here a market and a temporary appropriation of the shepherds worshipping their god. The woods, cut off from the rest with a simple sacred fence was probably the first place dedicated to veneration. In the second century B.C. the "commercial" aspect of the cult was increased thanks to the fortune of the tiburtine entrepreneurs and especially by the flourishing Delos market. The wealth that grew in Tivoli and in general, the whole of the central part of Italy, made it possible the construction of the grand sanctuary and the reconstruction of the city by the end of the II century B.C.
An impressive complex of buildings which almost looks as if it is one with the surrounding rock...
Patrocinio Comune di Tivoli
Assessorato al Turismo